Why data privacy is so important for your school
Above all else, schools should be happy, inclusive places that have a truly open, collaborative and community feel.
But, it would be irresponsible not to recognise the importance of keeping school data private.
Data privacy is a growing issue for schools, as education and research organisations are handling a greater amount of information, while at the same time being subject to a growing number of cyber hacks.
Disclosure of information is one of the most common threats, and it’s vital that schools take steps to protect their data and that of every student.
What are the threats to education data?
With e-learning platforms, virtual classrooms and BYO devices becoming the norm, the way school data is stored, accessed and shared is constantly changing.
While many of these advances are positive and make for a more collaborative and creative learning environment, there are also serious negatives that need to be recognised and addressed.
Data privacy is a hot topic for the education industry as more and more cyberattacks occur.
While the information schools store might look innocuous, it’s naïve to assume that school data can’t be valuable to hackers.
Student names, addresses, academic and health records, and more, are all stored on school networks. With paper records, in dusty filing cabinets, a thing of the past, all of this personally identifiable information (PII) is on the school network and vulnerable to hacks.
In addition to phishing scams, that trick people into giving information, ransomware hacks are also on the rise. With students using their own devices, this type of infectious virus can more easily infiltrate a network if proper security standards aren’t used.
Get to know your data
It’s hard to protect something if you don’t know what that something is.
Doing a data audit – that is, a data inventory and mapping of all the processes that collate and use/store student information – will give you a good base from where to start.
Once you know the kind of data you have, you can start to discover platforms and IT vendor features that can help you better protect and use the information between staff and parents, or across your management networks.
How to improve your school security
The amount of data stored and used by schools can feel like an ocean of information. And how can something as small as a school protect something as large and ever-changing as an ocean?
Don’t panic. There are some simple ways to help improve the way you secure and protect your school data.
1.Talk to your people
The weakest link in data security is people. Sad, but true. Equipping your staff, students and teachers with the basics, about how to stay safe and secure online, can be a great step in stopping things like phishing scams and ransomware attacks. Conduct regular sessions with leaders who can pass on the correct information, and let your teams be part of a safe data solution.
2. Put policies down in writing
Allow and encourage your IT decision makers to create a set of guidelines and policies, around devices and access, that everyone in the school can see and understand. As well as making specific departments or leaders accountable, it also acts as a handbook of what to do when suspicious external sources request information they shouldn’t need.
3. Use a trusted IT vendor
Sounds like common sense, but when employing a third party IT vendor or support service, ensure you’re using trusted, reputable, global brands. These internationally recognised organisations can offer you the security options you need, and know what requirements your school legally and practically requires.