At one point or another in our lives we embark on an educational journey, whether it’s because we have to, want to, or need to. We hope that this journey will lead us one day to that all mighty high paying job @ Google!!!! Oh wait, that’s just me…..anyway, we go to school in hopes of bettering our lives in some way. One thing that we never think about at school is our identity or data that is received when signing up for your educational institute.
The world that we live in today is a data driven world. This data comes in every instance from an app on your phone/tablet that collects data of your sleep to you or your children’s grades uploading instantly after they take their final exams at school. Our world thrives on having this data at our fingertips, and some, want more important data than others.
I work as an IT for an educational institute that was just a victim of a network breach during finals week. This instance caused for frustration and confusion on many levels by not on the tech team but teachers and parents alike. Here is a short breakdown of the occurrence. Wednesday morning, the beginning of finals brings help desk calls flooding with concern about slow internet and inability to log-on to Gmail and Skyward (Student Management Software). It was nothing out of the ordinary as we’ve had similar issues in the past. Moving forward, the first final is over and teachers are now going to their workstations to scan their students final exams and have them automatically uploaded. This process is fairly painless most of the time with Mastery Manager (Internet based test grader) however it was painfully slow and receiving errors every five or so pages scanned. Turns out Mastery Manager was experiencing issues and was working on resolving the issue ASAP. Now with that being solved Thursday rolls around and the internet speeds are unbearable for some users, Skyward is not working along with Gmail. Now things are starting to seem a bit “out of the ordinary.” I message my Network Administrator to see what is going on, he said he was on the phone with Comcast support trying to figure out what is going on. End of day Thursday and still no resolution. Friday the final day of final exams is here and no improvement, there are only two finals today and a makeup session which is not a very heavy load of students. Same issues through the first final, and second, however the makeup exams there seems to be a massive improvement in network speed! Oh great it happens when all the chaos is over….so what happened is the big question?
Two “Denial of Service” attacks juggled our district’s entire network for almost three days. For those of you asking….What the heck is a “Denial of Service” attack? A “Denial of Service” attack occurs when someone from the outside of your network uses programs to flood and application or network to render it “unusable.” The first attack caused Skyward to be flooded with over 1 million hits which is why staff,students, and parents were not able to log on at all. The second attack flooded our secondary network with traffic (not tied to a particular application). It is scary to think of this type of thing happening at a school district, but let’s analyze how this could be useful from a hacker’s perspective.
First, the younger generations today are smarter and smarter, kids are using iPad’s/Tablets at the age of two. Kids are experimental and want to rebel sometimes in their lives. What better way to do this then to breach your school’s network and attempt to take it down? Or, as a student myself or a couple of my friends got a couple bad grades and you need them changed before finals are over? Well believe it or not, let’s try to hack in and change the grades to our liking. These are just a couple of examples from the students perspective however, still crazy to believe we have to be preparing for things like this. Another side would be the “data hungry” hacker, the one who will breach the network, take it down, and steal private information that we entrust to be safe with a six character password containing letters and numbers. These hackers have tons of data at their fingertips on a school network such as name, number, social security, eye color, hair color, etc etc etc. Now that is scary, with identity theft becoming a regular thing in our society , it is puzzling to think it could happen from a data breach at school, however, it can.
This situation really opened my eyes to all the grounds that really need to be covered in digital security, to think schools could be a part of a major data breach is scary. Have you ever thought about your school or children’s school being a prime target for hackers? What do you think are the necessary steps that need to be taken to secure our schools data? Sound off in the comments section below. Till next time, TECH YOU!