Cyber security: eliminating pupils' exposure to criminals

Chris Ross, SVP International from Barracuda Networks, answers our questions on cyberbullying and tells us how the landscape of the digital environment is changing…

How is cyber bullying evolving as technology changes?

Earlier this year, we conducted a study of professionals responsible for technology within UK schools and colleges. According to our findings, 1 in 4 people expressed that their main concern was their inability and lack of resources to deal with cyberbullying. The accessibility of content within a digital environment, poses a safeguarding risk which requires training and awareness around the dangers as well as the support available. Dr Sangeet Bhullar, founder and executive director of WISE KIDS, a non profit UK organisation which promotes innovative, positive and safe internet use for young people, explains that by reducing access to dangerous and illegal content is key, but it isn’t enough. Young people need to have their voices heard and engaged with to co-create solutions. This helps develop their ability to deal with challenges they may face online and offline.

Are schools implementing the Government’s Prevent duty effectively?

From statistical evidence, it is apparent that the education system has struggled to improve the implementation of the Government’s Prevent duty since last year. Research we recently conducted within UK schools finds that those lacking confidence in their organisations use of technology to implement the duty has risen from 9% in 2017 to 17% in 2018. This rise is alarming, individuals working within the education system are becoming increasingly concerned surrounding their institutions ability to meet requirements and recommendations. However, awareness across the sector is continuing to grow with 43% saying their organisation has invested in staff training around the Prevent duty, which is an increase of 19% from the previous year.

What are the biggest concerns in terms of cyber security in schools? Chris Ross of Barracuda cyber security

Last July, the UK Government declared a £20m investment into cyber security lessons for schools across England. Since this announcement, it’s clear that both pupils and staff have taken priority. Encouragingly, 56% of organisations have invested in cyber security training for staff and 42% of organisations have offered training to pupils. Whilst the value of cyber security is increasing, implementing procedures and technology into such institutions is a prime concern due to budgeting restrictions. 18% of IT departments are aware of their requirements but feel that they have neither the resources nor the budget to put them into effect.

As always, data protection is a major concern for any organisation, across every sector. When asked in our survey, 11% of UK schools said they had been the target of a ransomware attack. Managing staff activity and use of technology is important to eliminate exposure to cyber criminals, which requires more training and more money; for some, this unfortunately isn’t feasible.

What do schools need to ensure they have done when it comes to cyber security?

As the education sector in the UK continues to encourage and embrace the use of technology both in and out of the classroom, managing student safety continues to be of paramount importance. Schools need to educate their staff and pupils on the dangers within the cyberspace and the threats targeting the education sector.

Our survey results found that recent high profile stories have increased awareness by 66% amongst respondents. As a result, conversations highlighting the frequency of attacks have begun. If schools can create more awareness around cyber security, they can decrease the volume of cyber attacks both short and long term.

However, due to the breadth of threats combined with the limited budget and resource available seems to be spreading IT departments too thin. Those responsible for technology need to ensure that they’re also investing in the best tools and training to protect their staff and students.

For more information on cyber security, see