A recent report found that K-12 schools and universities were the number one target for cyber attacks in 2022. Attacks have been on the rise since shift to remote learning in 2020. We talked with Fadi Fadhil, Field Chief Technology Officer at Palo Alto Networks, and Anthony Padrnos, Executive Director of Technology at Osseo Area Schools, to gain expert insights on how schools can use automation to improve cybersecurity and get ahead of threat actors.
School IT teams typically work with limited resources and, as a result, struggle to address the evolving threat environment. Conversely, threat actors are using automation and ransomware-as-a-service to increase the volume and severity of attacks to pressure schools to pay faster. To combat this, Fadhil recommended that K-12 schools use automation to improve cybersecurity. “What we’re doing these days is we’re fighting machines [and bad threat actors] … that are using automation,” Fadhil said. “The only way to win is to simplify our tools, adopt a platform approach, and automate 80 or 90 percent of the daily activities in order for us to operate at a machine scale.”
By automating routine cybersecurity tasks, school IT staff will have more time to focus on more immediate and pressing security-related tasks. Automation helps to create a proactive cybersecurity model that empowers IT teams to better mitigate risk. Automation helps improve efficiency, security, and gives school IT teams more time to focus on combatting incoming attacks and implementing proactive cybersecurity practices.
In the past, school administrators have often viewed cybersecurity as solely an IT problem. As a result of the increase in ransomware attacks, Padrones discussed how more schools are looking for ways to improve cybersecurity through a cultural shift. “Recently, the culture around cybersecurity has become even more of a focus with all executive leadership in a school organization recognizing that [cybersecurity] is a part of an organization as a whole … I think one of the greatest threats and challenges that we’re navigating, besides looking at the resources that we need, is building cybersecurity awareness and capacity throughout the organization with all individuals to understand their role in in our education system in this practice,” he said.
To learn more about how schools can use automation to improve cybersecurity, listen to the podcast below.