How Schools Should Reassess Cybersecurity Due to AI

Computer monitors to track Ai and Cybersecurity
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It is no secret that artificial intelligence is slowly permeating all aspects of society. Education is no outlier, with both students and teachers finding ways to implement AI into the classroom. Students have been using it to help spur their creativity in many subjects, while teachers are finding new ways to have AI supplement and even write lesson plans.

With the push to integrate AI in schools, questions may arise about how safe it is to use AI platforms, especially with children involved. While it is scary to think about potential threats that may crop up due to AI, there are also ways to help mitigate the impact or prevent it altogether.

How Vulnerable Are Students and Teachers?

More connected devices are being used in schools, and that can create multiple entry points for cyber attacks. AI platforms make those entry points harder to lock down.

Shad McGaha, Chief Technology Officer for Belton ISD in Texas, believes that cyber criminals are inevitably growing alongside AI.

“Cybercriminals are themselves utilizing AI to create advanced malware, highly targeted phishing campaigns, and social engineering tactics that are harder to spot,” McGaha says. “These AI-augmented attacks require a more robust defense.”

Schools are veritable treasure troves of information for students and teachers, and McGaha states that cyber criminals are evolving with their technology while average individuals don’t know enough about how to protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Why Cybersecurity is Important in Education

With the increasing amount of ways AI can be used in education, keeping sensitive information protected is of equal importance. Personal information is valued highly by businesses and individuals, and AI can create pathways to this information in ways that we have yet to consider. However, implementing AI to help combat cybersecurity threats can help keep such information safe, such as an evolving antivirus program set to discover and deal with new threats.

Schools may soon consider hiring AI specialists to help mold the infrastructure of the institution to better serve students and teachers. Having a professional who is dedicated to teaching an AI platform to look for, identify, and eliminate virtual threats, can help save schools money and time.

On a smaller scale, AI may also be used to monitor student interaction and behavior. More students are connected with social media than ever before, and this can lead to unwanted forms of communication such as cyberbullying. AI programs may be able to help students understand how to navigate these situations by providing them with examples of what to do when faced with bullying.

How to Improve Cybersecurity in Schools in Regards to AI 

McGaha suggests that there are various ways we can focus on cybersecurity in our schools, and AI can be a partner in that.

“AI can surpass traditional rule-based security systems by analyzing huge volumes of network and user data for anomalies that could signal a breach attempt,” he says. “It learns to detect even new types of attacks with more speed and accuracy.”

AI can also react faster than a human to an attack. “AI-driven systems don't just detect threats, they can automatically take actions to contain them,” says McGaha. “This could mean isolating infected devices, quarantining suspicious files, or alerting IT staff in real time. Speed is key in preventing a minor incident from escalating into a full-blown security crisis.”

Another point of focus is to improve threat response when incidents happen.

“Consider how AI can enhance detection speed and automated response actions,” MdGaha says. “Define clear incident escalation procedures that include both IT staff and AI tools. Data backup, offline storage. … Ensure essential data has secure backups that are isolated from the main network should a compromise occur.”

Protecting our students from cyber breaches and other digital threats is more important than ever. Now, with an ever growing amount of tech in our schools, having a cybersecurity specialist that can navigate AI will be critical to protect teachers and students while keeping the focus on education.

Michael Millington
Senior Staff Writer

Michael Millington is a senior staff writer for Tech & Learning. A writer and editor with over a decade of experience, his focus on bringing actionable information to those in need is the driving force behind his work. When not researching new advancements in technology, Michael likes to practice his Italian and train his dog Cyril.