New Hampshire’s Push for Cybersecurity Resilience

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity is no longer just a concern for big corporations or government agencies. It’s a threat that reaches into the very heart of our communities, affecting the safety and privacy of our schools. As cyberattacks continue to rise, officials are urging schools to take proactive measures to defend themselves against these increasingly sophisticated threats.

A Look Inside Cybersecurity Breaches

Imagine the chaos that ensues when a school district falls victim to a cybersecurity attack. Personal information of staff, parents, and even students can be compromised, leading to identity theft and financial fraud. Pamela McLeod, a former director of technology for the Concord School District, vividly recalls the devastating aftermath of such an attack in 2016. W-2 forms, containing sensitive information like Social Security numbers, were swept up by infiltrators, leaving the district scrambling to mitigate the damage.

Understanding the Scope of the Threat

But the threat doesn’t stop there. From 2016 to 2022, over 1,600 schools across the U.S. reported security breaches, with hackers often holding personal information hostage for ransom. The recent “sophisticated attack” on the Nashua School District serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our educational institutions.

At a panel discussion hosted by Sen. Maggie Hassan, experts and former administrators came together to sound the alarm: K-12 schools are prime targets for cyberattacks. Without proactive measures, these attempts will likely only increase, with potentially dire consequences for students and staff alike.

Thankfully, efforts are underway to bolster the defenses of our schools. Legislation like New Hampshire’s House Bill 1612 requires school districts to develop data and privacy governance plans, ensuring they are prepared to respond to breaches effectively. Additionally, federal funding from initiatives like the $1 trillion infrastructure bill aims to provide financial and technical support to enhance cybersecurity programs in schools.

But defense against cyber threats isn’t just about throwing money at the problem. It requires a comprehensive approach.

Insight From The Department of Information Technology

An article recently written by the Department of Information Technology titled “New Hampshire Cyber Threat Assessment”, dives deep into the current state of New Hampshire’s network and where they may be at risk. It is also written to educate and inform individuals in IT and the general public about the potential risks and measures that can be taken to prevent these disasters.

“The most likely things users/administrators will see are phishing emails, attacks to compromise identities, business email compromise to enable good old-fashioned grifting, and ransomware attacks.”

Simply training staff to recognize and avoid these phishing scams can make a world of difference. The Department of IT also recognized that public and private sector organizations are highly likely to become victims of cyberattacks and proactive measures are not only recommended, but required. With the “rapid evolution and adoption of emerging technologies… [we need to be adaptive and innovative] in our cybersecurity practices.”

Be Proactive. Be Prepared. 

It’s time for a mindset shift. Cybersecurity is not just an issue for IT professionals; it’s everyone’s responsibility. Schools must prioritize digital security and invest in measures to protect sensitive information. As McLeod aptly puts it, “We may not think we’re a great target, but to an attacker, we may be a fantastic target.”

Let’s heed the call to action and safeguard our schools against the growing threat of cyberattacks. Together, we can build a more secure future for our students and communities.

Click here for a free threat assessment to see if you have any vulnerabilities in your system


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