Running a school website is not easy. And even less easy it is to ensure its security because school websites are always on the target of hackers due to the sheer amount of data that can be stolen from them. Last year over 500 schools were hit by ransomware in the US alone, which explains the gravity of the situation. However, with proper planning, anything can be achieved, and the security of schools is nothing different. If you take the right steps, you can ensure the safety of your school website. In this article, we’re going to share with you seven such steps that you can take to ensure the security of your school website. Let’s get started:
#1. Put a strong password policy in place
First, put a strong password policy in place for all people who access your school website. Simple passwords are one of the most easily exploitable vulnerabilities in the cyberworld, so all your students and staff members must be using strong passwords for their accounts. A strong password is one that includes letters, symbols, and numbers in a cryptic manner. It should also be at least eight characters long. With that kind of password, you’ll be able to put a strong foundation for the security of your school website and data.
#2. Install SSL certificate
SSL certificates are another part of the strong foundation we were talking about. They protect not only your website from a MiTM and phishing but also the data of its users from being stolen while it’s in transit. Without an SSL certificate from Cheapsslshop, your school website will load over HTTP protocol, which is vulnerable to MiTM attacks in which an attacker steals the data packets being sent between a client and a server to see what information is being sent.
On the other hand, if you’ve installed an SSL certificate on your web server, then it’ll load over HTTPS protocol, which creates a secure tunnel between the browser and the server. That way, even if someone manages to steal the data packets of your visitors, he won’t be able to extract any information from them because the packets will be encrypted. So, get your website protected with an SSL certificate that can protect your website. You can, for example, purchase a Cheap Comodo Positive SSL Wildcard in case if your school website has more subdomains that point to the main domain.
#3. Two-factor authentication for sensitive information
When it comes to school websites, some information is more sensitive than the other. For instance, the payment-related information of parents and the database that contains the information of students require more stringent security measures than the rest of your site. One such measure that you can take is that of enabling two-factor authentication. Whoever accesses this sensitive information must pass an additional check after validation of the password before they’re granted access to the data. That additional check may be the submission of a unique password sent over SMS/email, a code generated through multi-factor authentication apps like Google Authenticator or anything else that validates the identity of the person accessing the data. This extra validation can help in those circumstances when somehow an attacker has managed to steal the password of someone.
#4. Update your themes and plugins on time
If your school website is based on WordPress (or any other CMS that provides functionality through plugins/extensions), then you must keep them updated. Many times, school websites also get hacked because their themes or plugins were out of date, thus providing a backdoor to the hackers for executing their attacks. Therefore, you must update all your themes and plugins as soon as there is an update available for them.
#5. Control access to the school network
Access to your school network should also be controlled. Not everybody needs to access the network of your school, and even among people who need to, you can put configurations in place that segregate their activity from the servers containing sensitive data. For example:
These are just a few examples of what you can do to control access to your school network. With controlled access, the attacks on your website can be minimized significantly.
#6. Train your staff and students
Training your staff and students about cybersecurity best practices is also essential. Many times, it’s not a mistake on the part of employees but a mistake by some staff member or student that becomes fatal for the whole website, so you must train everyone accessing your site regarding important cybersecurity best practices. Some of those practices include – avoiding the use of public Wi-Fi, not clicking links from unsolicited emails, recognizing phishing emails and not sharing sensitive information with anyone.
#7. Create an emergency response plan
While the steps outlined above can go a long way to ensure that your school website is not attacked, you should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You should know what you’re going to do if your school website is hacked, and what are the necessary steps that others should take to prevent the attack from happening. Everything should be outlined in a detailed response plan, and this plan should be put together by a team of cybersecurity professionals managing your school network.
As we said above, it’s not easy to ensure the security of a school website as they stay on the target of cybercriminals. However, if you follow the steps outlined above, then you can certainly take the security of your school website to the next level. So, implement them and if you know any other measures necessary for the safety of a school website, share them in the comments.