That’s how many days have passed since we officially closed our (physical) offices at FRSecure and SecurityStudio. The date was March 16th, 2020, and it’s a common closure date for many organizations. It’s crazy, but I hardly remember the month of April or the first week and a half of May! I’ve either lost context, or I’m losing it in a big way. These are times like no other.
This thought about context got me thinking about how it applies to our work as information security professionals. I believe one of the biggest tells about good or bad information security leadership is the ability or inability to put risk into context. I think there’s a whole series of podcasts we could do on this topic focusing on how we can help people understand context better. The better we understand context, the better our information security decisions will be. Maybe we’ll start tackling this in a series of podcasts, starting with episode 80 next week.
This week, we’ve got a slightly different topic.
Today, in episode 79, we’re going to focus our attention on a recent report from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) titled “The State of Edtech Leadership in 2020“. There’s some really good information in this report, and kudos to CoSN for pulling it together!
Let’s just get to it, episode 79 show notes below…
SHOW NOTES – Episode 79
Date: Monday, May 11th, 2020
Episode 79 Topics
- Catching Up (as per usual)
- The State of Edtech Leadership in 2020
- Wrapping Up – Shout outs
[Evan] Hey everyone! Welcome to the UNSECURITY Podcast. This is episode 79, the date is May 11th, 2020, and I’m Evan Francen. With me today is my co-host, Brad Nigh. Good morning Brad!
[Brad] Brad’ll say good morning I bet. He’s a super nice guy like that!
[Evan] We’ve got a good show planned today! You and I both love helping people, and I think we’re covering some things in this episode that should help all our listeners. Before we get too deep though, let’s catch up. It’s what we do! How you doing and what’s new Brad?
Quick discussion about COVID-19, life, and other stuff.
The State of Edtech Leadership in 2020
[Evan] Like you Brad, I get asked a lot for my opinion about this or that in information security. If the question I get is focused, it’s easier to provide a quick answer, but when a question is vague or open-ended, it takes much longer. This hit home for me this weekend when I was asked to chime in on this article; K-12 Tech Leaders Prioritize Cybersecurity, But Many Underestimate Risks, Survey Says. There’s a lot to unpack here, and a good opinion takes more time.
[Brad] He probably hasn’t read the article yet, but we’ll see…
[Evan] One thought that came to mind when I was asked for my opinion was the concept of context. Anything taken out of context can be made to look anyway we want, good, bad, and/or anything in between. When I read the article, one statement stood out right away:
fewer than 20 percent marked any items on a list of cybersecurity threats as “high-risk” from their perspective
[Evan] What caught my attention were the words “from their perspective”. Questions popped into my head. How do Edtech leaders define “cybersecurity”? What’s on their list of “cybersecurity threats”? What’s “high-risk”? This is a can of worms.
The following are key quotes directly from the CoSN report.
Cybersecurity remains the number one technology priority for IT Leaders, yet the threat is generally underestimated.
For the third straight year, cybersecurity has ranked as the top priority. When it comes to maintaining network security, 69% of districts say they are proactive or very proactive – up significantly over last year’s 52%. Districts employ a variety of strategies to minimize risk, including the vast majority in which IT staff training is a top practice and a majority requiring teachers and principals to receive training as well. Despite concerns, the survey also found that less than a fifth of respondents (18%) have a dedicated full-time employee (FTE) whose sole job is cybersecurity. IT Leaders feel phishing scams pose the greatest risk to network security, with almost half (49%) rating them medium/high risk to high risk. Despite this, results also showed an overall trend to underestimate risk—less than a fifth of respondents considered any specific threat as high risk. This runs counter to the reality that school systems are being specifically targeted by cybercriminals with reported cyber incidents tripling in one year.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds both promise and peril for IT Leaders.
The majority (55%) of IT Leaders anticipate that of the emerging technologies, AI will play a significant or transformational role in teaching and learning over the next five years. However, AI also poses concerns, with privacy being the biggest. Before AI becomes adopted at scale and can deliver on its promise, privacy issues will need to be addressed.
The top three challenges persist: budget, professional development, and department silos.
These three areas have been vexing IT Leaders since 2017. While budget is often beyond district control and directly affects professional development, it is within districts’ abilities to address the existence of silos. As outlined in CoSN’s “Digital Leap Success Matrix,” cross-functional executive team leadership is integral to the development of a successful digital learning environment. Until the executive leadership breaks down the silos, IT Leaders will continue to face difficulty in achieving their district’s own technology goals.
Other items from the report
Districts without a dedicated person on staff use a variety of methods to monitor network security. The most common approach is sharing the responsibility across several jobs (46%) followed by incorporating network security monitoring as part of another job (30%). Outsourcing is used by 11% of respondents. A concerning 10% of respondents have an ad hoc approach and do not have anyone assigned to monitoring their district’s network security. A makeshift approach to addressing cybersecurity is one reason why “school districts are proving to be particularly enticing to hackers.”
When it comes to maintaining network security, 69% of districts say they are proactive or very proactive. This represents a significant increase over the prior year’s 52%. Only 13% describe their activity as reactive or very reactive, a decrease from 23% the prior year. These year-over-year results indicate that districts are highly aware of increased network attacks in K-12 environments and are increasing efforts to thwart them. It is likely that lack of resources, not lack of awareness, is responsible for the 13% described as reactive/very reactive. As one respondent lamented: How is our small district able to fend off a multitude of possible cyber threats with the staff we have?
When asked to rate their perception of various risks to network security, respondents did not make significant distinctions between threat types. The largest segment fell into the Medium risk range—low/medium, medium, high/medium. With 49% rating it medium/high risk or high risk, phishing was deemed the greatest risk. It is surprising more did not consider it a greater risk. Phishing attacks have reached the “highest level in three years” with more than two-thirds of all phishing sites using SSL protection. With SSL decreasing as a reliable indicator of security, risks increase for users unable to spot phishing sites. Less than a third (31%) of respondents perceive ransomware attacks as medium/high riisk or high risk. This risk level assessment is also likely lower than it should be as the FBI is reporting ransomware schemes are being specifically designed to target public schools.8 With less than a fifth of respondents rating any threat as high risk (phishing received the most with 16%), threats overall appear underrated. Only 5% assessed student data to be at high risk, yet, according the most recent data on reported K-12 cybersecurity incidents, “the most frequently experienced type of school-related cyber incident…..were data breaches, primarily involving the unauthorized disclosure of student data.” With the number of reported K-12 cybersecurity incidents rising—nearly triple from 2018 to 201910—perceptions in perceived risks should start to realign more closely with reality.
[Evan] No doubt, we have a lot of work to do in K-12. It’s our obligation to do everything we can to help. Check out SecurityStudio’s free resources and do a holistic information security risk assessment like the S2School we developed earlier this year. Put information security risk into perspective and make much better choices.
[Evan] Alright. Good talk. Thanks Brad! Let’s cover a couple of interesting news stories before we wrap this up. Here are a couple stories that caught my attention:
- Survey: Most Firms Not Adding to Cyber Training During Pandemic – https://www.meritalk.com/articles/survey-most-firms-not-adding-to-cyber-training-during-pandemic/
- Idaho Names Longtime Cyberprofessional as New CISO – https://www.govtech.com/people/Idaho-Names-Longtime-Cyberprofessional-as-New-CISO.html
Wrapping Up – Shout outs
[Evan] Sheesh! Lots of stuff. Well, that’s it for episode 79. Brad, you have any shoutouts?
[Brad] Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t…
[Evan] Here’s mine…
[Evan] Seriously, a huge thank you to our listeners! We love your encouragement and we don’t take your advice lightly. You’re all great! Keep the questions and feedback coming. Send things to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re the social type, socialize with us on Twitter, I’m @evanfrancen and Brad’s @BradNigh.
Have a great week!