3 Tools for K-12 Cybersecurity: Keeping Schools Safe in a Digital World

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Our connected world offers opportunities for learners of all ages, but it also introduces risks as soon as our young ones can type, swipe or click. With even very young children developing a digital footprint, it’s never too early to start educating them on how to be responsible and safe digital citizens.

Schools are keenly interested in online safety and security. IT leaders working in K-12 schools say cybersecurity is their number one concern, and with good reason. For example, a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center found that, in the U.S. alone, “The vast majority of teens… have access to a smartphone, and 45% are online on a near constant basis.”

The simple act of clicking on a link in a phishing email can have serious consequences for students and schools. Recent phishing campaigns have triggered ransomware attacks that have shut down schools, exposed student or employee information or stolen large amounts of money from employees by misleading them into paying fraudulent invoices. A single approach to K-12 cybersecurity won’t cover all areas of concern. Here are three ways that Palo Alto Networks can help educators and administrators keep students and schools cyber safe.

1. Education for K-12 Cybersecurity: Cyber A.C.E.S.

Cyber A.C.E.S. (Activities in Cybersecurity Education for Students) is a free, interactive learning program that equips kids from ages 5 to 15 with the knowledge they need to have safer online experiences and become good digital citizens. Lessons for four specific age groups are designed so educators can easily lead activities without prior training. Each age-group module includes hands-on activities in four areas: responsible connectivity, privacy, communication and digital citizenship. We encourage you to download some of the Cyber A.C.E.S. modules and try them out! 

2. Best Practices for Configuring Security Devices

Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, cybersecurity awareness and training can’t be our only defense, yet schools often have limited IT resources, especially for cybersecurity. Palo Alto Networks offers tools that make it easier to appropriately protect K-12 environments. Our day-one K-12 best practice configuration templates reduce the need to manually configure and audit Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls and help K-12 institutions meet government regulations relating to child protection and data security. Your network administrators can quickly enable Safe Search, targeted decryption policies that reduce risk, web filtering policies suitable for schools and more. View our Security Reference Blueprint for K-12 Education IT to learn more, or if you are already familiar with this kind of configuration work, you can download templates for K-12 educational deployment configuration of the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall from Github.

3. Resources for Securing Funding for K-12 Cybersecurity

Lastly, an important consideration is funding. In the U.S., the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries (E-rate) provides funding for schools to connect to information and resources through the internet. E-rate can help fund a portion of the security you need to create a safe K-12 learning environment. For U.S. districts and schools planning to use their 2020 E-rate funding to help secure their network, we’ve compiled a list of E-rate resources to help guide you through the process. 

For more information on how Palo Alto Networks helps K-12 schools around the world secure their modern learning environments, visit our K-12 industry page.

This blog was written by Greg Herbold, director, U.S. SLED Program, and Jeff Rangel, senior director, global corporate responsibility.