Cyber Security

Your complete guide to cyber security for schools and the education sector

In this comprehensive guide, we explore cyber security for schools, highlighting key challenges, benefits, and criteria for selecting the best consultancy partners. Drawing from extensive experience, we provide expert advice on enhancing your institution’s security posture and ensuring advanced protection against emerging cyber threats.
A photo of Ian Welch, who is a partner & technical director for Network

Written by

Ian Welch

Ian is the Technical Director @ Network and a certified ethical hacker (CEH), security professional (CISSP) and ISO27001 lead implementer with over 25 years experience.

Updated on

May 3, 2024

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Before we dive in

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Key Takeaways

  1. Explore the critical role of cyber security in schools, highlighting how expert consultancy can transform your school’s approach to managing cyber threats.
  2. Discover the top benefits of engaging with cyber security professionals, from tailored strategies to enhanced compliance and proactive threat management.
  3. Learn how to select the perfect managed cyber security service for your school with actionable tips and key questions to ensure you find the right fit.

What is the role of cyber security in schools?

Cyber security plays a crucial role in safeguarding the IT environments of schools and educational institutions. By outsourcing their cyber security needs, schools can benefit from significant cost savings compared to maintaining an in-house team.

Cyber security services are pivotal not only in managing threats but also in ensuring compliance with various regulatory frameworks. These frameworks provide structured guidelines to strengthen the security posture of schools:

  • NCSC Cyber Assessment Framework (CAF): Offers guidance to help organisations assess and improve their cyber security practices, ensuring they meet the specific standards set for government suppliers.
  • Cyber Essentials: A government-backed scheme that provides institutions with fundamental protection against the most common cyber threats, focusing on essential hygiene practices.
  • The IASME Governance Standard: Similar to ISO 27001 but tailored for smaller organisations, this standard helps schools manage information security and reduce risks.
  • SOC2: Relevant for cloud-based services, SOC2 focuses on managing data based on five “trust service principles”—security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
  • ISO 27001: This international standard offers a comprehensive approach to managing sensitive company information, ensuring its security, availability, and integrity.
  • PCI DSS: Ensures that all entities that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment, crucial for schools handling transactions.
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Do these cyber security challenges sound familiar to your business?

Your staff are anxious about phishing and malware, unsure how to identify the threats.

You’re concerned that your current cyber security measures might not be strong enough.

There’s increasing pressure to ensure customer data is more securely protected.

What services do cyber security companies provide?

Cyber security companies deliver an array of essential services designed to protect schools from emerging threats and enhance their security infrastructure. These services include:

  • Security Operations Centre (SOC): Acts as the central point for monitoring, assessing, and defending against cyber threats.
  • Network Auditing: Comprehensive inspections of your network to identify and resolve performance bottlenecks and security vulnerabilities.
  • Endpoint Detect & Respond (EDR): Monitors endpoint and network events while responding to advanced threats that evade traditional security solutions.
  • Phishing Simulations: Controlled exercises aimed at testing the awareness of staff and students, helping them identify and react to malicious emails.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Proactively scans systems to detect and report potential security threats before they are exploited.
  • Dark Web Monitoring: Tracks hidden online spaces to alert schools if their data appears in malicious marketplaces.
  • Security Awareness Training: Equips school staff and students with the knowledge needed to recognise and respond to cyber threats effectively.
  • Penetration Testing: Simulates real-world cyber attacks to identify weak spots in a school’s network defences.
  • Managed Compliance: Ensures that schools comply with relevant data protection and cyber security regulations.
  • Cyber Security Managed Services: Offers ongoing support, from real-time threat monitoring to incident response.
  • Ongoing Support: Provides continual assistance and advice to help schools maintain their security stance.

The importance of cyber security services for schools

The complexity of managing a secure IT infrastructure can be overwhelming. Outsourced and managed cyber security services offer schools a way to tackle this complexity cost-effectively.

The financial cost of a breach can far exceed the investment in advanced cyber security defences, making these services not just necessary but essential.

Schools face an ever-evolving number of cyber threats, and it is crucial to have a reliable partner to manage incidents and monitor potential breaches.

By focusing on threat management rather than the impossible promise of total protection, cyber security providers help schools maintain a stance of readiness and resilience against potential attacks, ensuring that educational continuity and the protection of sensitive data are prioritised.

What challenges do schools face when it comes to cyber threats?

Cyber security for schools in the UK is marked by several distinct challenges that necessitate vigilant management and proactive measures. Here’s an overview of the primary challenges faced by the education sector:

Increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks

Phishing remains the most prevalent form of cyber attack against educational institutions. In recent studies, a vast majority of schools reported experiencing phishing attacks, highlighting an urgent need for enhanced email security measures and training. Cyber security training and phishing simulations are essential in equipping both students and staff with the skills to recognise and avoid such threats.

Compliance with data protection regulations

Schools must navigate a complex array of data protection laws, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which mandates stringent management and protection of personal data. Compliance is not only a legal requirement but also critical to maintaining trust and integrity within the educational community.

Resource and budget constraints

Financial limitations pose a significant challenge, particularly for schools that might lack the budget to hire qualified cyber security staff or implement the most up-to-date cyber security solutions. The cost of maintaining a secure IT infrastructure is often weighed against other educational priorities, making it difficult for schools to allocate sufficient funds and resources towards cyber security measures.

Management of user accounts and access points

With a large number of users accessing school networks, managing user accounts and securing access points becomes a critical issue. Schools need secure systems to ensure that sensitive data is accessible only to authorised users and that these access points are protected against breaches.

Ensuring continuity in the face of cyber incidents

The ability to maintain educational and administrative operations in the wake of a cyber incident is crucial. This requires not only preventive measures but also effective cyber incident response plans and business continuity strategies that can minimise downtime and mitigate the impact of any breach.

Educational focus on cyber security

While schools are primarily focused on educational outcomes, the need for cyber security education as a fundamental aspect of the curriculum is becoming increasingly clear. Integrating cyber security training into the educational framework prepares students for the digital challenges of the future and enhances the overall resilience of educational institutions against cyber threats.

Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that includes investment in technology, training, and compliance, as well as ongoing support from cyber security experts to ensure that educational institutions can safeguard against and respond to cyber threats effectively.

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The top 10 benefits of working with cyber security consultancy experts

Working with cyber security consultancy experts brings several unique benefits to educational institutions. Here are ten key advantages that underscore their value:

  1. Tailored Security Strategies: Experts design bespoke security solutions that align with the specific needs and risks of your school, ensuring that your educational establishment's unique challenges are addressed.
  2. Expert Guidance on Compliance: With regulations like GDPR demanding strict compliance, consultancy experts provide the necessary guidance to navigate these requirements effectively, ensuring your school meets all legal obligations.
  3. Access to Advanced Technologies: Consultants bring access to the latest cyber security technologies, offering schools cutting-edge solutions that might otherwise be inaccessible due to cost or complexity.
  4. Enhanced Incident Response: Experts can develop and refine your cyber incident response plan, drastically reducing response times and improving the effectiveness of actions taken in the event of a cyber attack.
  5. Proactive Threat Detection: Through continuous monitoring and advanced analytics, consultants can identify and mitigate potential threats before they escalate, safeguarding sensitive data and critical infrastructure.
  6. Cost Efficiency: By optimising your cyber security investments and preventing costly data breaches, experts ensure financial resources are utilised effectively, which is particularly beneficial for budget-conscious educational institutions.
  7. Staff Training and Awareness: Experts provide targeted cyber security training for school staff, empowering them with the knowledge to identify and prevent cyber threats, a key element in strengthening your overall security posture.
  8. Improved Stakeholder Confidence: Parents, staff, and regulatory bodies gain confidence in your institution’s ability to protect sensitive data and provide a safe learning environment when they know expert consultants are involved.
  9. Ongoing Support and Maintenance: Cyber security is not a one-time fix but a continuous process. Experts provide ongoing support and updates, ensuring your security measures remain robust against evolving threats.
  10. Strategic Security Insights: Consultants offer valuable insights into security trends and potential vulnerabilities within the education sector, allowing your institution to stay ahead in implementing best practices and mitigating risks.

These benefits demonstrate how cyber security consultants can play a crucial role in enhancing the security and operational effectiveness of educational institutions, making them an invaluable resource in the UK today.

How to choose the perfect cyber security partner for your school

Choosing the right cyber security partner is critical, especially if past experiences have left you wary. According to feedback from our clients, a common catalyst for changing providers has been poor communication.

This highlights the importance of selecting a partner who not only excels in technical expertise but also in client relations. Here is a checklist to guide you in making an informed decision:

  • Evaluate Communication and Support: Does the provider offer clear, ongoing communication? It's essential that they explain complex security matters in understandable terms and are responsive to your concerns.
  • Check for Relevant Experience in Education: Has the provider worked with schools or educational institutions before? Familiarity with the specific challenges and regulatory requirements of the education sector is crucial.
  • Assess Their Service Offerings: Does the provider offer a range of services that cover all your cyber security needs? Ensure they can manage everything from risk assessment to incident response and recovery.
  • Inquire About Customisation Options: Can they tailor their services to fit your specific needs? A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works in cyber security.
  • Request Case Studies or References: Can the provider demonstrate success with other schools? Ask for examples or case studies that showcase their effectiveness.
  • Verify Compliance Expertise: Do they have a proven track record in helping schools comply with regulations like GDPR? This is vital for protecting against legal and financial repercussions.
  • Consider Their Approach to Cyber Security Training: Do they provide training for your staff and students? Education is your first line of defence against cyber threats.
  • Look at the Scalability of Their Solutions: As your school grows or technology evolves, can their services scale to meet changing needs? Flexibility is key.
  • Analyse the Cost vs. Benefit: Are the costs of their services justified by the level of protection and support offered? It’s important to balance budget constraints with the need for advanced security.
  • Examine Their Incident Response Capabilities: How quickly can they respond to a security breach? Time is of the essence in mitigating damage.

By thoroughly vetting potential cyber security partners against these criteria, you can ensure that the one you choose not only meets your current needs but is also a reliable ally in maintaining a secure and compliant educational environment.

Related guides

  • Discover how IT support for schools can enhance educational experiences by ensuring reliable and secure technology infrastructure that supports both teaching and learning.
  • Learn about the importance of a cyber security health check to identify vulnerabilities and strengthen your school's defences against cyber threats.
  • Explore GDPR consultancy services to understand how they can help your school navigate complex data protection laws, ensuring compliance and safeguarding customer information.
  • See why cyber security for small businesses is critical in protecting against data breaches and maintaining trust with your customers in a digital world.


We hope this guide has equipped you with a deeper understanding of cyber security in the education sector, highlighting the crucial roles, benefits, and selection strategies for the right security partner.

Does your school face similar cyber security challenges? How does maintaining compliance affect your educational environment?

We're keen to learn about your experiences and discuss how we can support your needs. If you're considering enhancing your school's cyber security measures, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.