It’s like playing a game where the rules are constantly changing. But cybersecurity is no game. And the stakes are especially high for schools.  

Technology was already firmly integrated with school systems before the COVID-19 pandemic. But since 2020, admin processes and classroom learning—whether traditional, hybrid, or fully remote—have pivoted, increasingly relying on technology-based solutions.  

While these digital platforms have helped to streamline and deepen learning in countless ways, they have also made school systems more prone to cyberattacks and compliance violations: especially when teachers, students, and staff share sensitive information such as passwords. Limited cybersecurity training and budgets also make school districts especially vulnerable to attack.  

The policies and processes establishing user identities are commonly referred to as identity and access management (IAM), which requires users to authenticate themselves before accessing email accounts, learning management systems, and databases. This ensures the right access for the right people to help prevent data breaches and uphold student and educator privacy.  

A student in a classroom writing on a laptop with a digital pen, with two other students working independently in the background.

A student working on a laptop in a classroom. Microsoft 365 Education helps schools provide secure learning experiences with built-in cybersecurity features.   

Protect your school’s devices and data with Microsoft’s industry-leading cybersecurity solutions that bring the digital security needs of your students, teachers, and school districts to the forefront. 

Looking to go deeper? Join us at the Microsoft Secure digital event on March 13, 2024, to learn how to bring world-class threat intelligence, complete end-to-end protection, and industry-leading, responsible AI to your organization. Register for Microsoft Secure today.  

IAM cybersafe and cybersound 

IAM is an automated process that grants access to systems based on a user’s unique role. For many school districts, this is a manual—and oftentimes cumbersome—process. Automation, however, streamlines this process while making it more secure. Merely automating this process can also dramatically lessen support calls and IT workload, which is especially important when resources are spread across different systems.  

“IAM solutions are put in place to help schools protect valuable data, including school records and personal information on students and educators, which is a key target for cybercriminals,” says Wes Gyure, director of strategy and offering management at IBM Security. “Given that schools are dealing with minors’ personally identifiable information, there are also data privacy laws that they must comply with. This makes it even more important to validate who is accessing what data, whether they have the appropriate entitlements, and that they are who they say they are.”  

The four main components of IAM are: 

  1. Authentication: This process actively verifies the identity of users by requesting their unique identifiers and necessary credentials to demonstrate that they are legitimate.  
  2. Authorization: This is the act of granting access to tools and resources. 
  3. Administration: This component manages users’ accounts, groups, permissions, and password policies.  
  4. Auditing and reporting (A&R): This focuses on what users use their given access for, what they do with the data or resources they accessed, and how this helps the organization to track and detect unauthorized or suspicious activities. It enables IT teams to keep detailed audit trails of identity and access within a school or district.   

Single-minded safety 

One common IAM solution is single sign-on (SSO), which allows a user to access systems and services just once with just a single ID and password. This increases efficiency for students and staff while reducing the risk of stolen passwords.  

What is another important way to prevent bad actors from accessing school systems? “Implement multi-factor authentication for school staff and educators,” said Doug Levin, the national director of K12 Security Information Exchange, or K12 SIX, a nonprofit dedicated solely to helping school districts and other primary and secondary education organizations protect themselves from emerging cybersecurity risk.   

Safety in numbers 

Multifactor authentication (MFA) provides another layer of protection for schools and districts, requiring users to verify additional factors such as a trusted device and, in some instances, biometric data such as a fingerprint—or an adaptive access solution, which may require geolocation. This is another way to prevent bad actors from using stolen passwords to break into educational systems. IAM solutions provide users access to their educational applications from a single launchpad, making it fast and intuitive to make the most of learning time, and automate account provisioning, so that users don’t have to wait for a school IT department to manually handle a request.  

An IT team sitting in a school office and working on a laptop together.

A school IT team collaborating. Microsoft 365 Education helps schools and districts establish a simple, secure, and efficient technology environment that maximizes learning.   

A trusted partner in cybersecurity 

Microsoft believes that when students, educators, and staff work in a secure and trusted platform, everyone can achieve more. That’s why our power security solutions for education authenticate and authorize all human and nonhuman identities at every access request: outmaneuvering attackers while simplifying processes.   

Microsoft IAM solutions apply machine learning-based risk assessments to protect from identity attacks while reducing sign-in friction with quick and secure connections to the resources that teachers, students, and administration need.  

The Microsoft Entra family   

  • Microsoft Entra offers holistic identity and access security, with the ability to protect any identity and secure access to any resource with a family of multicloud identity and network access solutions.  
  • Microsoft Entra Verified ID is for managing users, helping to increase productivity and security, ensuring headcount reports are accurate, and that schools and districts aren’t paying more for subscriptions than needed.  
  • School Data Sync automates school groups, syncing data from Entra ID to create groups for Microsoft 365, class teams in Microsoft Teams for Education, and groups in other third-party apps.  
  • Intune for Education simplifies device and app management, allowing educators and school and district IT to quickly deploy apps to users and apply device settings that create a safe and secure classroom experience.  
  • Microsoft Entra ID provides IAM, allowing users to manage identities and conditional access policies to connect people to their apps, devices, and data.   

In a comparison of Microsoft Entra ID and Google Cloud Identity Access Management on, reviewers found Microsoft Entra ID easier to use, set up, and administer and that Microsoft Entra ID met the needs of their business better than Google Cloud Identity & Access Management. One reviewer noted that “Entra has all the Identity and Access management related settings, configurations, tools, features in one portal, this gives comprehensive visibility into an organization's IAM and security all in one place.” 

A solution for every role 

School and district IT administrators face a nearly impossible task: staying ahead of cybercriminals. Administrators who use Microsoft Entra benefit from a platform based on Zero Trust principles. Entra uses machine learning for: 

  • Real-time risk assessment. 
  • Safeguarding against compromised identities and unauthorized attacks. 
  • Keeping IT administrators one step ahead of threats.   

Meanwhile, remembering multiple passwords is challenging, especially for younger learners. Single sign-on (SSO) streamlines the process of accessing learning resources and apps saving instructional time and reducing frustration. Another major benefit is that students and teachers don’t need to be on school property to access the resources they need. They can work from anywhere—enabling productivity while ensuring safety.  


And—above all—school leaders depend on solutions that they can trust. Microsoft Entra is a six-time Leader in the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Access Management.  

The Microsoft 365 Education A5 advantage 

Stay ahead of tomorrow’s threats with continuous innovation to meet evolving needs with Microsoft 365 Education A5. Helping districts and schools to provide safe and secure learning experiences backed by world class protection, Microsoft Education cybersecurity tools are consolidated into one cost-effective solution. Tools such as Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, Microsoft Defender for Office 365, and Microsoft Purview Insider Risk Management further help thwart potential cybersecurity risks and close gaps before breaches occur.  

Microsoft security solutions for education give school IT administrators excellent control over which identities can access what data. In addition, these controls provide the power to choose how users access data based on factors such as location, time of day, and the device they use: significantly reducing the likelihood of account and system compromise.  

With a great IAM solution in place, you can more confidently embrace innovative solutions and offer your students a better digital experience that enhances learning outcomes. 

Learn more about how Microsoft 365 can enhance privacy and security for your school system by exploring these resources:  

Join us at the Microsoft Secure digital event on March 13, 2024, to learn how to bring world-class threat intelligence, complete end-to-end protection, and industry-leading, responsible AI to your organization. Register for Microsoft Secure today.