“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” 

Those words are as true today as they were when Benjamin Franklin first uttered them. And while Franklin had to overcome the many educational hurdles of his day, the risk of becoming an identity theft victim wasn’t high on the list. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many current-day students and faculty across the nation.

That’s because identity thieves are targeting the education industry in record number, and they aren’t discriminating against those they hurt. From senior citizens taking classes at a local community college to children registering for pre-K and the faculty that serve them — everyone is at risk.

Today’s article hopes to shine a light on WHY this is the case, and what we can do about it.

The state of the education industry

The education industry is under siege.

In 2017 alone, educational institutes experienced 292 recorded security incidents and 101 confirmed data breaches. Of all industries tracked, education saw the fourth-highest number of overall breaches. And when it comes to the frequency of social data breaches, the education sector performed even worse — coming it at number three.

Unfortunately, these trends are only getting worse. Last year there was a 103 percent increase in data breaches in the education industry. While causes for these data breaches varied greatly, not all of the threats were internal ones. In fact, 25 percent of the breaches were a result of cyberespionage perpetrated by foreign governments.

Why would foreign governments, identity thieves, and cybercriminals be so interested in U.S. schools? Let’s take a closer look.

Why do identity thieves target educational institutes, faculty, and students?

There are many reasons identity thieves target educational institutes. However, these two are perhaps the most significant.

First, educational institutes typically collect and store data on THOUSANDS of individuals. This creates a jackpot-like scenario for cybercriminals, who can make off with the personal details of thousands of victims in just one breach or attack.

Second, the types of data institutes collect about faculty and students are highly valuable on the dark web. These can include mailing addresses, Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, and even sensitive healthcare information. In fact, 11 percent of all education data breaches in 2017 involved the exposure of student and faculty medical records.

As a result of both the types of data being collected and the sheer number of records housed, it’s no wonder that employees in the education industry are so targeted. Through phishing, hacking, and other forms of fraud, identity thieves can use the victim’s credentials to compromise co-workers and students at the victim’s institute.

Identity thieves aren’t just targeting adult-age students in colleges, universities, and tech schools either. They are also targeting students who are children. In fact, the younger the child is, the more valuable their identity is. While an adult’s personal details sell for around $10 to $25 on the dark web, infant data sets sell for approximately $300.

How can you protect your employees and students?

If your organization is looking for ways to protect your institute and students from identity theft, an important first step is to safeguard your employees.

If you’re a benefits broker with clients in the education industry, you should consider offering identity protection as an employee benefit. To learn more about the risks of identity theft in the education industry, and why institutes across America trust PrivacyArmor, you can download our complimentary one-sheet, How Identity Theft and Data Breaches Affect the Education Industry.