COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Higher educationjust revealed details of a massive data breach impacting former students across the state. It confirms the research of federal investigators that say schools and students themselves are becoming a more popular target for cyberattacks.
“The attacks are broad and all over the place and they are rampant,” said Micki Cockrille of the National Cybersecurity Center.
In recent years, federal investigators have started to track an increasing number of cyberattacks on K-12 schools, our colleges, and universities. Experts monitoring this trend at the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs warn these attacks not only disrupt school operations, but can also expose personal information impacting students, their families, and teachers.
“Cyber criminals might be going after your data so one thing as a parent you should really be looking out for is to see if the school has a really good data policy," said Cockrille. "Are they keeping your data secure? Do tools they have tools in place to do that? What is their policy? Are they transparent about it?”
So how are the hackers impacting our schools?
According to the U.S. Government Office of Accountability they’re launching phishing attacks, ransomware, distributed denial of service attacks (where they infiltrate and overwhelm networks), and by disrupting video conferences.
”It’s like stealing bikes. If you have a lock and the guy next to you does not, someone is going to take the bike without a lock,” said Caden Rothzeid, a recent graduate of Liberty High School who will soon be starting his college career at Pikes Peak State College.
He says in his experience having a hacker get into any social media or online accounts is a mess that is tough to clean up.
“They typically change passwords, change emails, most people’s accounts aren’t verified, so support is like are you really this person? So, it’s very difficult to get accounts back if they are hacked,” said Rothzeid.
U.S. Cybersecurity officials suggest families talk with their students about taking these steps to improve cybersecurity this school year.
- Create new strong passwords for all online accounts
- Be suspicious of unexpected emails and avoid clicking links
- Set up pin number locks for all devices (laptops, tablets, phones)
- Limit social media networks to only have people you actually know
Rothzeid says there are things he's learned to do that other students may want to try to improve the safety of their devices and online accounts this fall.
”Whenever I step away from my laptop for a second, it doesn’t matter where I’m at, I lock my computer," said Rothzeid. "Another thing, use a password manager, it really helps. It’s tough to remember a lot of passwords. Some people can, most people cannot and it really helps you.”
Here are some resources to help you plan that cybersecurity conversation with your family and leaders at your school:
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