Students Safely Using Devices on Networks: Home, School and Business

The integration of technology in classrooms has changed school environments tremendously. It seems as if each year at earlier ages, students are more comfortable using a tablet than putting pen to paper. However, there’s more to be concerned with than kids growing up with poor penmanship.

As we all know in the world of cyber security, no one is exempt from being the next victim of an attack. What is failed to be remembered is that our kids are just as likely to become victim to phishing scams, breached firewalls or being hacked on their tablet or smartphone devices which are now required in the classroom. The worst part of it all is that those infected gadgets can be brought onto your home network – contaminating and exposing your personal and business devices to those same threats.

How Do We Prepare

The school system should have an IT, support or leadership team to navigate these waters. It starts at the top – with an IT Support team prioritizing and running point on the overall environment of the school system. The resources required by the teachers and staff for that specific school system will impact the security decisions made by the team. It could be that each student needs a laptop or tablet in place of textbooks. Or that there’s an app that needs to be downloaded onto their cell phone for a certain school assignment.

Someone has to take ownership of the security processes and due diligence to maintain the upkeep of tablets, computers and laptops. Whether that be ensuring software updates are implemented and tested as needed, passwords are changed routinely and downloads to the device are being monitored, approved or excluded. It could also mean blocking sites that are too risky, not age appropriate or could expose students to material that is inappropriate. There has to be rules when using the devices as well as maintaining them with someone in charge of protecting the overall environment and educating students, teachers and staff on appropriate usage.

Then, the ownership of practicing and teaching safe security actions will move down the totem pole to teachers. Teachers need to both remind their students and adhere themselves to the rules set by the security team. There cannot be shortcuts or assumptions made. If there’s a need for new programs to be downloaded, ask your team to test and investigate the program further to ensure it’s safe for students and the school’s entire network.

Finally, it does come down to teaching students how to use these devices appropriately, respectfully and why the misuse of them could result in them being banned from using the device – ultimately hurting their education.

What You Can Do

When looking at the big picture, a school system holds information regarding the identities of the staff and students sometimes numbering into the hundreds of thousands of people. This leaves you at risk with hundreds of thousands of opportunities for a bad actor to insert themselves onto these devices and into your network where they can obtain and exploit this sensitive data.

It’s safe to say that you probably have a home computer, with a home network, which you will connect your work devices to if you need to work from home. It’s also safe to say that depending on the ages of your kids, they too will bring their “work” devices home and connect to the home network. Check to make sure that these devices don’t automatically connect to your home network – no matter how “easy” it is for them, it makes it all the more easy for bad actors to find their way in as well through their computers. No matter what, if you have any other devices on your home network you should be connecting your work devices through your work network by using a VPN to protect your business from the threats that could be brought onto your home network.

There are a lot of things to protect here. Your home network being the first. Bringing in outside devices and connecting with your home network could compromise your system if you don’t have sustaining security measures in place. Protect your network by ensuring that all of your apps, routers and programs have the most up to date software, that you are password protected to join your network and frequently change that password. Then, think about the devices you’re bringing onto your network, especially your work devices, and protect them by doing the following: stay on top of your anti-virus software updates, ensure you have appropriate security settings and always log in with VPN.

With the increase of technology comes added responsibility – for all involved; teachers, faculty and students. Teachers need to ensure that any of the equipment outsourced to students is in the hands of those that understand the risks and responsibility needed to operate securely.

Looking for more information on protecting your home and school networks? Core Security offers security tools for education systems with a focus on remaining compliant, reducing your threat surface, improving efficiencies and cutting IT costs. Curious for how this will look in your environment? Check out how it worked for this Midwestern University.  

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