After enduring dynamic changes that were brought about by the pandemic, the educational sector is finally prepared to welcome students back and resume offline classroom sessions. But, if the pandemic-driven remote learning and distance education has taught us anything, it is that digitalization is essential to tackle adversities. Digital classrooms require strong data and device security measures that are crucial to delivering a seamless learning experience to students.
So far, schools have always been prepared for adversities such as fire hazards, earthquakes or health emergencies. But going forward, schools will have to take stringent measures to keep their students safe from internet malpractice, as well as the countless lurking threats.
Given this, we have created a security checklist that can help educational institutions reaffirm their security posture and enable a distraction-free and danger-free learning environment for students. But, before we move toward the checklist, let’s first understand the potential threats that can negatively impact children.
What Are the Security Threats That Schools Must Look Out For?
Reports suggest that almost 90% of the children own a smartphone by the age of 11, that is in secondary school. The use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops is common for school children. And no doubt that internet-powered digital devices open up a portal to infinite knowledge for children but, at the same time pose numerous threats as well.
Children are prone to falling prey to security threats due to the following reasons:
Poor password hygiene
In a digital environment, both students and teachers have to create several accounts on various educational platforms, internal administrative portals and student portals. Not knowing the importance of creating strong passwords, students may tend to keep simple and easy-to-decode passwords like their names, favorite colors, names of their pets, etc. The easier the password is to decode, the easier it gets for an external person to gain access to the student’s information and the school’s private accounts.
Phishing and malware attack
The internet is an unlimited source of knowledge. It can help students learn concepts, view videos, follow subject matter experts on social media, watch documentaries and much more. However, hackers take advantage of the fact that most people cannot tell the difference between a genuine website and a malicious one. Browsing malicious websites, or accidentally clicking on suspicious links can lead to malware infiltration on the students’ devices.
Such malicious links are vectors used to spread malware of various kinds such as spyware, viruses, trojans, etc. Hackers often send emails in the name of someone popular, or someone the users may know to trick them into clicking on the malicious links or entering personal information. Students and teachers are both at risk of falling prey to such phishing attacks.
Unpatched OS or app vulnerabilities
Children may know how to download and use mobile apps of diverse kinds, but they may not know the importance of updating apps as soon as the new version is released. Even teachers frequently delay OS and app update notifications without realizing that they are giving rise to an entry point for hackers. App and OS versions are regularly patched and upgraded by their makers to reinforce their security structure. Failing to update to the latest versions may create a security loophole for hackers.
Exposure to inappropriate online content
A report suggests that 56% of 11 to 16 year olds have been exposed to explicit online content. Simply enabling online learning is not enough, schools need to be prepared to protect their students from tonnes of explicit online content including pornography, abusive videos, violence, etc. that can make them feel upset and confused.
A Security Checklist to Create a Safe Learning Environment for Children
Digitalization comes with a massive responsibility. To ensure a secure and distraction-free learning environment, schools must take measures to keep all the above-mentioned challenges and threats at bay.
Here’s a security checklist to help you strengthen your digital learning environment:
1. Enforce the use of passwords
Educate children about the use of strong passwords. Enforce the use of alpha-numeric passwords that are not repetitive for student portals and other educational platforms. Schools IT admins can enforce policies for periodic renewal of passwords and keep a record of the students’ passwords. When it comes to confidential information regarding students and staff, the school IT admins can enable multi-factor authentications to add an extra layer of protection to the sensitive data.
2. Web content filtering
To ensure that your students make the most of the internet, without falling prey to explicit online content, schools can restrict the use of specific websites on students’ learning devices. By restricting the use of websites to selective educational ones, or preventing the use of selective inappropriate websites, schools can minimize unsafe browsing practices.
3. Limit the use of educational apps on students’ devices
Schools IT admins can further distribute a specific set of learning apps downloaded from trusted sources on the students’ and teachers’ devices. With this, students are no longer allowed to download gaming or entertainment apps from unknown sources. This works well in minimizing distractions in students, as well as keeping them protected from malicious app downloads.
4. Mandate the use of VPN
Schools must make it mandatory to use the VPN to ensure that critical information such as students’ grades, personal information, etc. is not leaked. Using VPN ensures that the network is encrypted and the IP address of the user is hidden. It prevents any untrusted external traffic from gaining access to your information.
5. Ensure timely OS and system updates
One of the most underrated aspects that can help schools to keep their security posture intact is to ensure timely OS and system updates on the students’ and teachers’ devices. Relying on the students or the staff to do it themselves may not be a great idea, since many times people forgot to upgrade their apps and systems to the latest versions.
6. Educate students about the security risks
Lastly, do not forget to conduct informative sessions explaining to students the best practices for using the internet and digital devices. Students must be made aware of the threats that surround them and must be able to consciously identify and prevent falling prey to them.
Infographic Case Study: How Scalefusion Can Impact The Education Industry
Scalefusion MDM: Helping Schools Reinforce Their Security
Several schools are turning to mobile device management solutions to help them reinforce their security posture, without overburdening their IT department. Powerful MDM solutions like Scalefusion MDM, allow schools to manage, secure and monitor their large number of students’ and teachers’ devices in bulk. With this, schools can be in control of the device usage and keep a track of the compliance violations.
Scalefusion MDM allows school IT admins to push extensive security policies on all the devices, monitor compliance with the school policies, as well as gain comprehensive insights based on the device usage, app versions, security incidents and much more with the help of deep analytics and detailed reports.
Here’s how Scalefusion MDM helps schools reinforce their data and device security:
- Push device security policies such as passcode policies, VPN configuration, etc.
- Push a plethora of learning apps from Apple App Store, Google PlayStore and Windows Business Store.
- Create app configs and schedule timely app updates to prevent security vulnerabilities.
- Push website usage restrictions to prevent unsecure browsing and exposure to explicit online content.
- Push a variety of learning material securely on students’ devices in diverse formats such as files, videos, presentations, etc.
Delivering quality education should always be a priority for schools, without letting challenges stand in the way. But it is always best to be aware of the threats and be prepared to tackle them. Implementing a powerful MDM solution for education helps schools tick most of the things off the security checklist and provides students with a secure learning environment.