Data Security and Remote Learning
By Matt Brennan
As more and more schools transition to a home-based approach, data security and remote learning will become increasingly intertwined. While a good move to keep people safe from the virus, this transition requires an increased effort in cybersecurity.
School districts across the nation are faced with similar data threats as the businesses that were forced into utilizing a remote workforce. Teachers and students alike will need to be educated on how to use remote learning technology safely. This could mean crash courses in everything from video conferencing software such as Zoom, to remote learning hardware devices, such as Chromebooks or other laptops.\
There’s also the safety of the main remote learning platform to consider, and any other software programs that might be utilized.
Data Security and Remote Learning: The Process is Moving Faster
For many school districts, remote learning may have been a long-term initiative, rather than an immediate objective. One-to-one programs, where a piece of technology would stay with the student, may have been rushed to accommodate the current reality.
But because of the nature of the pandemic, and remote learning becoming the only way for students to continue their education, the process was expedited. This rush is what makes data security and remote learning such important considerations.
In the midst of the recent stay-at-home flurry, many tech companies began to offer free or discounted subscriptions to their software. This opened the door for teachers to access it without the traditional district vetting processes that would typically involve the IT department. These programs may not follow the school’s typical student data security standards.
There are federal laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that districts need to adhere to, even as we rapidly shift to remote learning during this pandemic. When teachers make software and technology decisions independently of the district, there’s no check to ensure that these privacy and data security standards are being met.
While some states have clearing houses that will vet educational software for districts throughout the state, in others, each individual district is responsible for their own vetting. The process can typically take months to complete, depending on the size of the district and the resources they can allocate to the process.
On-Camera Security Concerns
While Zoom’s educational products meet federal regulations for children’s privacy laws, they’re other products do not. So a standard Zoom subscription may not be the quick answer for video access and remote learning.
Parents should also consider covering their child’s laptop camera as an added security precaution. There is a 2019 complaint against Zoom filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center for activating users’ cameras, even when they’re not on the platform. It’s also a potentially dangerous target for hackers.
Data security and remote learning are extremely important. In the past, school districts have rightly acted in a slow and deliberate manner when it comes to technology, investigating their hardware and software options to ensure they meet state and federal laws.
The pandemic understandably created a sense of urgency when it comes to the implementation of remote learning. Even in these unprecedented times, the district is responsible for both students’ and teachers’ data security.
This means finding a way to vet software before it is implemented. It means arming users with common sense security measures, such as covering their cameras and overseeing the methods that teachers use for video conferencing. It’s important to make sure that safety is considered in all aspects.
If you’ve lost any sensitive data, contact us today!
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