Cybersecurity Concerns for Charter Schools

Educational institutions present major issues when it comes to cybersecurity. Practically operating as data cash cows for hackers, charter schools, public schools, and colleges are all easy targets for data breaches and cybersecurity problems.

Charter schools, like other educational entities, house student and employee records as well as sensitive financial information; all can be easily obtained by cybercriminals. The education sector has seen an uptick in attacks in recent years, so it’s important for schools to understand what they’re up against and how they can limit risks.

Here are some major cybersecurity concerns that charter schools specifically need to be on the lookout for heading into a new year.


There are several different types of phishing scams that can hit schools and since more than 90 percent of all cyberattacks start with phishing emails, it’s important for schools to be able to spot them when they show up.

  • Deceptive: Emails that seem legitimate in subject and sender asking the recipient to verify their account and personal information.
  • Spear: These emails are similar to deceptive emails, but with personal information including position, name, and more to make the email appear to be even more legitimate.
  • Superintendent Fraud: Much like CEO fraud, this form of phishing uses an email similar to a school administrator or school board member to get the recipient to send sensitive information.

The goal of these phishing emails, no matter what form they come in, is to get people to click on links that install malicious software and infiltrate sensitive information from there.


This is a type of malicious software that encrypts the school district’s data and requires a ransom to be paid in order to regain access and ownership of the information. The threat of release of the data is usually made unless a ransom is paid. But what schools aren’t usually prepared for is the possibility that if they indeed pay the ransom, the hacker may not give the information back.

The best way to handle ransomware attacks and regain access to data without having to worry about further damage is to backup data on a server that is not accessible by the rest of the network and not vulnerable to the ransomware encryption agent.

IoT Weaknesses

Internet of Things devices can include district-owned equipment including security cameras, tablets, laptops, cell phones, and more that may be student or teacher-owned. Even smartwatches can be vulnerable to attacks from hackers. It’s important for districts to consider isolating devices on a separate virtual local area network (VLAN) in order to keep them isolated from potential attacks.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.