Protecting Student Data

By mid-September, most kids in the U.S. have started another school year, so it feels like the perfect time to think about what we are doing as school administrators, teachers, and parents to protect student data. Schools, both K-12 and higher education institutions, are rich targets for cyber attacks. What makes them rich targets? The main reason is that they store highly sensitive information such as social security numbers for hundreds or thousands of students.

protecting student data

Threats to Data

Students are spending more time online at school. They are researching projects, learning in the classroom, and perhaps even visiting social media sites in their down time.  In addition to more time online, there are also more internet-connected devices such as wireless printers and education related apps (sometimes hundreds of them within a school district!). And, unfortunately, this means more opportunities for hackers.

Kids are more likely to be susceptible to social engineering than adults, which can threaten data safety as well. They may pick up a strategically placed USB and plug it into the network. Or be susceptible to someone posing as an authority figure either through email. Or be laxer about writing down or securing passwords properly. For this reason, it is up to school administrators to put technological protections in place. This may be walling off student access from other parts of the network that house sensitive data.

While kids can be more susceptible to poor cyber hygiene, staff and teachers are certainly not immune. Staff and teacher security missteps can often be more damaging than those of students because their wide-ranging access. In June, 7,000 student records were compromised at Hopkins County School because a hacker was able to compromise a staff members password-protected account. An accidental electronic share by a staff member caused student data in the San Francisco Unified School District to be disclosed without authorization.

Good Cyber Hygiene

Whether you are a teacher, school administrator, or a parent of school-aged kids, share these reminders with your kids so they can help protect the network too.

  • Allow antivirus/anti-malware software and other updates to run as scheduled.
  • Follow email safety guidelines to avoid phishing.
  • Protect your account with a strong and unique password.
  • Lock your computer.
  • Respect others’ privacy.
  • Save documents to the proper location so files are backed up in case of a cyber attack.

An open dialogue about cyber security and regular reminders will help everyone keep good cyber hygiene at the forefront of the organization. At Cyber Safe Workforce we specialize in delivering bite-sized security awareness tips for both staff and students. Contact us for more information.

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