Return to Learn Online – Cybersecurity Guideline for Schools

With the rush to push school online due to our current pandemic, remote learning is establishing itself as the new norm. Cyberattacks continue to plague the education sector and they are only rising. With that in mind, new challenges to student privacy and cybersecurity are emerging. With the shift to virtual classrooms being engaged, technology becomes more vulnerable when used in less-secure environments, according to EDTech: Focus on K-12.

So how can we keep our educators free from online threats while keeping student and sensitive information secure in a remote learning environment? Here we explore ways to perform awareness measures and highlight issues of returning students to school in an online environment.

Establish Security Basics for Online Learning

Early on, schools must set security standards for online learning. As in any industry, schools must keep up with changes in technology to thwart malicious hacking attempts. To help schools navigate this new normal, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have released a set of guidelines to help schools protect themselves and their students in virtual classrooms.

When assessing programs and developing activities for online learning, the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) has a six-step planning process for school operations to follow.

1: Form a collective planning team
2: Evaluate and interpret the situation
3: Determine goals and objectives
4: Develop a plan and courses of action
5: Prepare for plan review and approval
6: Plan implementation and maintenance

Preparing for a Cybersecurity Incident In Virtual Classrooms

Schools must prepare for threats while in a distance learning format and take a variety of actions to mitigate the effects and respond to cyber threats. REMS provides a fact sheet to prepare schools for virtual learning cybersecurity safety.

  • Before an incident, develop and promote policies on responsible use
  • Protect networks and systems by using cloud-based software to store data securely and comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Regularly back up data prior to accidental or deliberate corruption
  • Create firewalls and determine an approved list of individuals with access to school networks
  • Regularly monitor networks to assess the risk of cyber threats

Do’s and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

Technology has made our abilities to conduct meetings online effortlessly, but school districts need to acknowledge that virtual environments are at risk. Webcams and video conferencing are vulnerable to hackers. Institutions must configure settings to run access through an existing federated identity platform. This will establish security settings that you can manage for educators. 

Teachers must remember to also keep their video accounts secure. The Consortium for School Networking or COSN provides helpful advice for how tech should be applied in education. Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Use complex, unique passwords
  • Store all passwords securely, ensure protection from unauthorized users
  • Exercise multi-factor authentication methods to verify users
  • Use any established VPN to access accounts through the school system network
  • Avoid using chat tools or recording prohibited by policy

Most current technology platforms were not designed for use in school systems. Therefore, questions arise regarding compliance with Federal and State student data privacy laws. A few safety questions should be addressed before any video conferencing platform can materialize.

Protection From Home

Parents of school-aged children are also concerned about cybersecurity from home as students can be exposed to unique risks in cyberspace. To make cybersafety a priority from home The U.S. Department of Education published 7 ways to keep kids safe online that parents can use during this time.

Kobargo to the Rescue

Whether you are a school district, charter organization, or established business, partnering with Kobargo Technology gives you access to keep your data safe and secure. Our services include Managed IT solutions, Cloud-based data storage, and technology consulting to develop the best plan of action for your organization.

Contact Kobargo to learn how we can strengthen cybersecurity practices for your educators and students.

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