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Everything You Need to Know about Educational Data Breaches

Data breaches have the potential to be catastrophic, especially when it comes to the education sector. To find out more about educational data breaches, read on…

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll be well aware of how common data breaches are, as well as the impact they can have on individuals and businesses alike. All too often, stories have emerged concerning major businesses who have failed in their legal obligations to keep private data secure, leading to lawsuits and liquidation. But what about educational data breaches?

With so many changes to data protection rules over the past years, it should come as no surprise to learn that education providers have also found it difficult to keep up. This has led to several examples of data breaches in schools over the years.

While educational data breaches aren’t as well-known as commercial data breaches, they are just as common and come with equally devastating consequences. That’s why it’s increasingly important to be aware of how a breach might occur, what may happen afterwards and the ways to avoid a breach altogether. Take a look…

How Does an Educational Data Breach Happen?

There are a number of ways in which an educational data breach can happen. They are usually down to one of two things – nefarious activity from a cybercriminal, or a human error by an employee.

If a cybercriminal is involved, they will have successfully infiltrated security systems belonging to the education provider, subsequently extracting sensitive information. The information in question may be personal data belonging to pupils at the school, their families, or employees. From here, the cybercriminal may elect to use the data themselves, or set a ransom.

However, a data breach may also be the result of an accident. There have been instances of data breaches caused by employees which result in private data being revealed to the wrong parties, such as if an email is accidentally sent to the wrong recipients.

Depending on the type of data breach, the data that is exposed can vary. That being said, educational data breaches could see data such as names, addresses, telephone numbers and, occasionally, financial details, all fall into the wrong hands.

What Could Happen Following an Educational Data Breach

Once an educational data breach has been spotted, an internal investigation will usually take place to clarify whether there is a risk to people’s rights and freedoms. If this the case, then the education provider will need to self-report the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

If an individual believes that their data has been misused or mishandled by an education provider, they can also get in touch with the ICO themselves to notify them of the incident.

From here, the ICO will cooperate with the education provider to assess how exactly the breach occurred, as well as the level of responsibility they should be held accountable for. If it’s found that security procedures were not up to scratch, or the way data was being held was negligible, the education provider, or specific employees, could face heavy fines.

Anyone affected by an educational data breach also has the right to seek compensation, even if no financial data was exposed. They can usually do this with the support of an expert data breach law firm.

5 Tips to Avoid an Educational Data Breach

If you’re a member or employee of an education provider, you’ll now be wondering how you can reduce the risk of experiencing a data breach. After all, the prospect of facing a heavy fine isn’t exactly appealing!

Well, you’re in luck. Here are five quick tips to keep in mind to help avoid an educational data breach…

1.)  Frequent Training

The best way of avoiding a data breach that is caused by human error is to make sure that staff receive regular training and understand their legal obligations and responsibilities when it comes to data breaches.

Training will help to promote a more security-minded work culture, which will mean that safety and privacy are at the front of everybody’s minds.

2.)  Install Up to Date Security Software

It’s more than likely that the ICO will hand out penalties to anyone suffering from a data breach caused by out-of-date security software. So, make sure that everything is updated! Simple, right?

Up-to-date security software will patch up any weak spots that cybercriminals would otherwise attempt to exploit, keeping data much more secure.

3.)  Use Encryption

Encryption is essential when it comes to handling private data. It protects sensitive data by making it accessible to those who have an associated encryption key or password. So, if an email is sent to the wrong person, or a device falls into the wrong hands, data will remain secure.

4.)  Undertake Risk Assessments

To ensure that data security is a priority, risk assessments should be carried out frequently. Risk assessments can be used to assess procedures that are already in place and identify any potential weaknesses.

Identifying a threat at an early stage is an important part of data security, and risk assessments are essential to this.

5.)   Develop a Response Plan

If you’re handling data, it’s best to consider the worst-case scenario. If you are at risk of suffering a data breach, then you should have a response plan in place so you can minimise the potential damages.

Responding quickly and efficiently can make all the difference with data breaches, so it’s always best to be on the ball.

Have You Experienced an Educational Data Breach?

And with that, we’ve come to the end! Hopefully, this post has explained everything you might need to know about educational data breaches, as well as how you can avoid them as a provider.

Have you ever experienced an educational data breach? If so, why not leave a comment below so that we can keep the discussion going.

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