- Sponsorship -

Schools Learn how to Guard Against Cyberattacks

Schools can reduce the fallout of hackers’ cyberattacks by developing a two-prong plan that prevents their assaults and outlines what to do when information is stolen, concluded the main speaker at a recent IT cybersecurity workshop at the Kent Career Tech Center.

“In recent years, school districts have been the target of sophisticated cyberattacks,” said Barb Hiemstra, Kent County’s information security director. “The attempts by hackers are criminal. They’re often looking for information they can sell.”

Hiemstra, who also serves on the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium, spoke to about 40 information technology staff members from public and private schools.

For example, she said, hackers who can get access to someone’s health insurance information could sell that information to someone else to use for their own medical services. “(So) I can have services done which will disrupt your health record,” she said.

Other times hackers simply want to demonstrate to school administrators that their computer networks are vulnerable, or want to vandalize schools’ websites and post bogus information on them, Hiemstra said.

Whatever the reasons, nationwide education represented 10.7 percent of hacker targets in September of this year, according to hackmageddon.com, ranking third in 21 categories, behind only industry and government sites.

Resources to thwart cyberattacks include:

  • Center for Internet Security Inc. is provided free to schools and identifies, develops and sustains best practices for cybersecurity, as well as provides security solutions to prevent and respond to cyberattacks.
  • Merit Network is not free, but it offers services in cybersecurity education, helps manage unauthorized access to computer systems (firewalls) and measures security risks.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology detects computer system anomalies that in turn determine hackers’ attempts to break in. Its five “framework core” includes assessing the risks for being hacked; procedures for protecting information; detecting anomalies and continuous monitoring; knowing to how respond if a cyberattack happens; and developing a recovery plan.
  • School administrators must make risk based decisions. This involves prioritizing data that’s important or regulated; confirming it’s protected on a regular basis; staying current for new risks; and regularly reviewing a checklist of tasks.

On the Horizon

“You need to either protect it or accept the risk,” Hiemstra said.

When it comes to cybersecurity, schools can never afford to be at rest, said Tim Peraino, Kent ISD’s director of facilities and purchasing.

He anticipates hosting another session in January during which participants will work their way through a fake cyberattack and its aftermath.

“This was the first step,” he said.


Global Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign

Michigan Cyber Initiative

- Sponsorship -


Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Lessons from a pandemic: ‘agile learners’ need ‘agile adults’

Reflecting on the end of fall semester and 2020, Superintendent Dedrick Martin sat down with School News Network to discuss how Caledonia adapted to school closures, virtual learning and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic...

It’s all about getting students back to classrooms, Supt. Shibler says of the vaccine

Superintendent Michael Shibler hopes the more people get vaccinated, the closer we are to the end of the pandemic...

Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Partnership continues focus on student emotional, mental health

A group is working to identify trauma and provide support early in order to increase student success...

A familiar face returns to lead Kent ISD

Retired Kent ISD Assistant Superintendent Ron Koehler officially took the helm as interim superintendent on Jan. 1...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU