How to Tidy Up Your District’s Third-Party App Security Policy

Gone is the old, make way for properly approved third-party apps!

In the spring cleaning spirit, we help you clean up your school district’s cloud environment. And one of the most complicated items on the agenda? Third-party cloud apps.

To help you understand the role that providers, and specifically the cloud apps they offer, play in your school district, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about third-party apps, including why they matter, how using third-party apps without a security policy can be risky, and what you can do to keep them under control.

Why You Should Check Your Third-Party Providers

Before you start pulling out the broom and sweeping third party threatsyou need to know exactly why they need to be cleaned in the first place.

You might be wondering: what are third-party apps? Simply put, a third-party application is any cloud service provided to you by an external provider, such as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365. At the start of the pandemic and the need to blended learning that followed, many school districts accelerated their transition to the cloud.

In fact, according to the Edweek Research Center, more than 90% of K-12 schools already operate in the cloud, with 93% using Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, or a combination of the two. Given the incredible economic, operational, and educational benefits of the cloud, it’s no wonder so many schools have taken the plunge. And that’s not including the plethora of additional cloud-based SaaS applications used in school districts today, including teaching, human resources, building operations, and financial tools.


But during this jump, most districts haven’t invested in third-party app security. Only 20% of school cybersecurity budgets are allocated to protecting data stored in the cloud.

Here’s why it’s a major problem: Third-party apps store a lot of your sensitive data. When you deploy a cloud application, you trust this provider to keep your data under lock and key. If their defenses are weak or their data handling procedures are sloppy, your sensitive material could be leaked or stolen by malicious hackers.

And even worse? When their safety fails, your district is held accountable by law. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires you to use “reasonable methods” to protect student data from accidental and intentional data loss.

Sure, noncompliance is just the tip of the iceberg: risky third-party apps could also have real consequences for your students, staff and their families. That’s why it’s important to identify vulnerabilities in your cloud and the ways they can be used to gain access to confidential information.

Third-Party Application Security Challenges, Risks and Vulnerabilities

It’s no secret that cybersecurity is a hot topic in 2022, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s particularly problematic in education.

According to Microsoft’s tracker global threat activity, education is by far the most targeted industry in the last 30 days. Of the nearly 8.6 million devices that encountered viruses, malwareand other cyber risks, education contributed to more than 83% of them.

That’s over 7 million educational devices that came into contact with some threat in the last month alone. This staggering number begs the question: where are these attacks coming from?

[FREE]    Google and Microsoft "Spring cleaning" Control List.  Download yours today >>”/></a></span></span></p>
<p>One of the first places you should look is the cloud.  According to Verizon <a href=2021 Data Breach Investigation Report, “Compromised external cloud resources were more common than on-premises resources in incidents and breaches.” Insecure third-party apps can put your district at risk in several ways:

  1. OAuth: OAuth is a open standard authorization frame. It lets you sign in to new apps using credentials from another system, like Google or Facebook. Hackers are abusing OAuth to extract tokens and credentials from unsuspecting users, opening the way for them to access sensitive data stored in email and other applications.
  2. SQL injections: Malicious code embedded in third-party apps can open a backdoor into your cloud environment and expose sensitive data to prying eyes.
  3. Phishing scams: Fake applications may aim to trick unsuspecting students or staff into providing personal information under the guise of a legitimate service.

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, they are likely to use a combination of all three. But in addition to these malicious cyber threats, there is also the risk of human error:

  1. Unauthorized apps: If students download or install unauthorized third-party apps in your cloud environment, they might open a backdoor for accidental data leakage or malicious breach.
  2. Misconfiguration of security: Even legitimate apps can be poorly written. If an application’s security protocols are lackluster, they could easily be abused by a hacker.
  3. Data processing by third parties: When you entrust your data to a third party, you also trust their security posture. If they’re not careful, they’re putting your data at risk.
  4. Improper use: Sellers may use student data to serve ads to students. They can also sell this data to other companies, create profiles of each student or store this data for unknown purposes.

Between hackers and human error, your district is under heavy pressure to keep data secure in the cloud. In combination, this task is almost insurmountable. Luckily, cloud-based Data Loss Prevention (DLP) can provide relief.

How to protect your cloud environment against third-party risks

Cloud DLP takes a strategic, automated approach to securing the data stored in your cloud environment. With a cloud-based DLP solution, you can mitigate internal and external third-party risks.

You can think of cloud DLP as an effective force multiplier. Why? Because you can’t be in two places at once, but a DLP solution can. In other words, it monitors your cloud infrastructure for any activity that could endanger the district or students, whether it’s inappropriate file sharing, inappropriate content, or signs of self-harm. , Harassment on the internetand violence.

When it comes to third-party applications, DLP will secure your technology stack in several ways:

  1. Application Risk Scores: Cloud DLP can assess the riskiness of your cloud applications based on certain criteria, including required administrator privileges, authorization status, and written permissions.
  2. Automated Threat Identification: Cloud DLP will automatically recognize unauthorized apps as they appear in your cloud environment and respond quickly with 24/7 monitoring.
  3. Access control and policy enforcement: You can set user and application policies that, if breached, will send you real-time notification of the incident and allow you to immediately mitigate risk. You can quickly revoke access to apps and cancel them from a single user interface.

7 tips, tricks, and best practices for third-party app security

[FREE]    Google and Microsoft "Spring cleaning" Control List.  Download yours today >>”/></a></span></span></p>
<p>By now, you might already be grabbing your metaphorical broom and getting ready to sweep your risky third-party apps into the digital dustpan.  Before you take out the trash, here’s a <a href=some tips that can help you improve the security of third-party applications in your district and keep your cloud environment clean for many seasons:

1. Do a self-assessment

Auditing your cloud applications that already exist in your environment is the best way to get a head start and put an end to currently exploited security holes.

2. You get what you pay for

In a recent webinarMarlo Gaddis, chief technology officer for the Wake County Public School System, told us that free edtech tools aren’t as free as a puppy.

“You know, when you get a free puppy, the job isn’t done.”she said. “It is just beginning.”

School budgets can be tight and cumbersome to work around, but there’s no higher cost than compromising your students’ data. Start off on the right foot and look for quality third-party vendors with a proven track record of certified security, even if they only cost you a small chunk of the budget.

3. Develop a verification process

Create a checklist of what you need from a third-party provider before accepting their service. Relevant items may include their terms of use, data protection policies, data security history and whether or not they meet your compliance requirements.

4. Develop a formal data sharing policy

Refer to FERPA recommendations and create a formal policy on how you will agree to share data with third-party apps. Most importantly, share this information with parents, staff and students for full transparency.

5. Monitor your domains

Ensure that students and staff do not link their school accounts to unauthorized third-party apps, services, and other websites.

6. Teach everyone about proper data protection

Do what your school district does best and start teaching everyone – students and staff – the basics of data protection. Risk management isn’t the responsibility of just one small security team – it requires everyone to make an effort. With everyone on the same page, you’ll be much better off in the long run.

7. Invest in automation

Cloud data loss prevention software can be an extension of your district’s security team by automating the security detection and remediation portions of your third-party application. It lets you monitor your cloud apps, automate remediation, and create an extra layer of security between your students and the prying eyes of the outside world.

Free Google and Microsoft "Spring cleaning" Checklist - Download yours today

The post office How to Tidy Up Your District’s Third-Party App Security Policy appeared first on Managed methods.

*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of Managed methods written by Katie Fritchen. Read the original post at:

About Donald J. Beadle

Check Also

New Profile Pic app: Does Russia collect personal data from Facebook users?

It’s a new internet craze that turns your Facebook profile picture into a painting or …