Ever since the pandemic’s onset in early 2020, the entire K-12 education community has faced the unique obstacles associated with managing remote and hybrid learning environments. New Jersey School Boards Association’s (NJSBA) annual Workshop provides education executives and senior-level leaders the opportunity to discuss topical challenges and engage in trainings, participate in professional development events, discover new products and discuss the latest in policies, legislation and funding. This year’s in-person event built on the organization’s foundation of nearly 70 years of education support and demonstrated the successful perseverance of New Jersey educators in handling these modern challenges by allowing for collaborative, hands-on learning opportunities, face-to-face conversations that spur innovative ideas and onsite networking for attendees.
NJSBA Workshop 2022 offered many significant actionable insights for educators to share with their institutions and local communities. Exhibitors were tasked with aligning their programs with the 2022-2024 Strategic Plan Goals approved by the NJSBA Board of Directors, which included:
- Impacting Opportunities for Student Growth
- Services for Tomorrow’s World
- Professional Learning for Effective Governance
- Future Innovations and Advancements in Technology
- Partnering in Public Education Advocacy
In addition to these strategic plan goals, Workshop covered some of the top concerns currently within the K-12 public education sector.
Security Should be Top of Mind to Prepare for Any Threat Landscape
Because no system is immune from malware and infection, institutions should be ready for any type of attack by always treating their network as if it were a hostile environment, like they have been breached and as if there are active intruders. Educators should create backups of their data and continuously train their security staff in-depth to try to be more prepared in the event of serious attacks. The stark transition with the pandemic forced schools to act quickly to ensure learning was minimally interrupted, but unfortunately this meant that security was not always at the forefront of the planning process. Now, with ever growing persistent risks across the market—insider threats, ransomware attacks, etc.—institutions must utilize the right tools and solutions to handle any attack situation.
Understanding How to Combat Ransomware
Ransomware attacks are constantly on the rise in forms of deactivating security tools, destruction of logs and data, email hacking and executing destructive malware. When faced with ransomware, detecting and identifying the risk is the first step to be able to take action against it. Utilizing a decoder to determine these factors can save organizations time and money. Next, IT teams should monitor the damage ransomware causes like exposing vulnerabilities, changing configurations, etc., so they can create a response and prevention plan against future attacks.
Insurance Coverage is Necessary for the Most Successful Cybersecurity Recovery
As cyber attacks such as ransomware and data breaches rise, cybersecurity insurance and proactive measures to evade fraudulent activity are becoming increasingly essential. Because of this increase, insurance providers are becoming progressively more selective when choosing institutions to insure. Unfortunately, many insurance companies will not consider a school if they cannot provide an exceptionally detailed plan of its cybersecurity prevention and response strategies. Creating such plans can often be a timely process, during which students and staff remain vulnerable. Additionally, the cost of cyber insurance premiums continues to rise each year with rates up approximately 28% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the fourth quarter of 2021.
There are several ways institutions can guarantee lower insurance premiums and work toward protecting themselves from fraudsters:
- Frequently perform risk assessments, security testing and audits to ensure security programs, hardware and processes are properly up to date
- Conduct security training to ensure students, staff and IT teams are well equipped to identify and act upon suspicious activity
- Create and effective response plan to address breaches and back up strategy for data recovery
- Make sure tech teams remain adaptable to any fraudulent activity that may occur because cyber attacks can come in new forms
Cyber insurance does not prevent cyber-attacks from occurring, but it can ensure institutions are covered financially once the damages have occurred, allowing schools to rebuild their security programs and create a stronger, more protected educational environment.
Apply Automation Strategies in Learning Environments to Support Remote and Hybrid Learning
Automation within schools can provide more efficiency, visibility and cost savings. Streamlining processes and communications throughout educational communities is imperative to keep students on pace with their personal learning track. Using automation to optimize and manage these areas can prove beneficial. Not only is automation useful in everyday operations in school districts, but it is also important to provide “back-office” staff with functions for better data reporting, improved budget spending, reduced time-consuming manual processes and opportunities to cut down on human error. With the shift to remote and hybrid learning beginning in early 2020, students had to quickly adapt to an interrupted environment and a new learning style that instructors were adjusting to as they went along. Unsurprisingly, students began falling behind, widening the learning gap. Now, schools are focusing their efforts on long-term, sustainable technology solutions that can support the necessary catch-up students require to remain on track in completing their education. Through visibility and control via automation, organizations can steer away from utilizing multiple tools and solutions that do not operate well together and instead, utilize cohesive tools that support efficient cyber hygiene and IT performance.
Though K-12 institutions will continue to face adversity in a new era of remote and hybrid learning, educators are continuously working together to share insights and navigate the challenges of today’s modern learning environments.
Visit our website to learn more about Carahsoft’s NJSBA Technology & Cybersecurity Contract and other events, news and resources.
 “Report on the Cyber Insurance Market,” CNBC, https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/cmte-c-cyber-supplement-report-2022-for-data-year-2021.pdfhttps://online.maryville.edu/blog/supply-chain-attack/
 “Rising premiums, more restricted cyber insurance coverage poses big risk for companies,” National Association of Insurance Commissioners, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/11/companies-are-finding-it-harder-to-get-cyber-insurance-.html
 “Lowering Cyber Insurance Premiums in the Education Industry,” Up Guard, https://www.upguard.com/blog/lowering-cyber-insurance-premiums-education
 “Fraud Never Sleeps,” PaymentWorks, https://blog.paymentworks.com/fraud-never-sleeps
*The information contained in this blog has been written based off the thought-leadership discussions presented by speakers at NJSBA Workshop 2022.*