Study: 63 Percent of Schools Suffer IT Security Breaches Twice a Year

A study by Panda Security found that 63 percent of schools experience malware outbreaks or unauthorized user access at least twice a year. These results indicate that IT security is a resource-heavy, time-consuming effort that schools struggle to manage efficiently.

The study, which surveyed more than 100 individuals who manage IT security at K-12 school districts in the United States, examines security practices and top security concerns in schools and school districts.

With malware on the rise and new threats propagated through social media every day, having the right security tools in schools has never been more important. According to the survey, 64 percent of schools have experienced significant downtime, reporting at least two incidents in the last year.

Schools are also struggling to upgrade IT security systems, with 72 percent identifying budget constraints as the primary barrier to advancement, and 38 percent identifying a lack of staff for these initiatives. Twenty-nine percent indicate that the IT staff has other priorities that take precedent over IT security system upgrades.

"While the Internet is an invaluable tool for education, it can cause serious interruptions to day-to-day operations if schools fail to properly address security concerns," said Rick Carlson, president of Panda Security U.S. "The findings of the Kindergarten-12 Education IT Security Study point to a clear need for a security solution that effectively balances cost, time management and superior protection."
 
The study identifies the following key concerns for IT security in K-12 schools:

  • Security issues consume staff time, diverting attention from the business of education. IT administrative staff at 38 percent of schools report removing viruses or malware from IT systems a few times a week, and 21 percent are doing this daily.
  • While schools have baseline IT security best practices in place, there is still room for improvement. Ninety percent of schools install anti-virus and/or anti-malware on computers, but nearly 25 percent fail to use firewalls, block high-risk websites or employ user authentication.
  • Social media is a top concern for schools, but the stringency of school policy varies greatly. Ninety-five percent of schools have a social media policy in place, citing the mitigation of malware-related risks as a main reason for implementation. Twenty-nine percent of schools allow students unlimited access to social media sites, while 32 percent deny students' access altogether.
  • Schools recognize outside devices introduce external risks but they struggle to fully integrate security policies for multiple devices. Eighty-two percent of schools allow students and staff to connect personal computers and laptops to the school network, but only 74 percent are monitoring the use of external devices. Fifteen percent fail to take any additional security measures, leaving those school systems more vulnerable to infection.


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