Student safety is the number one priority in K-12 schools, and that extends to the safety of their private information. Technology is a tremendous asset in education, from instruction to the storage of student records. But it can also leave sensitive information vulnerable to malicious attacks by hackers. The situation that New York City Public Schools faced in January 2022 is not uncommon. However, there are measures that school districts can put in place to protect the privacy of their current and former students’ data. In this post, we’ve listed tips for keeping student data secure.
With proper safeguards in place, cloud hosting is the most secure way to store your student data. The added benefit of cloud hosting is that your data is available to authorized users from wherever they have internet connection. Because of this convenient accessibility, though, you will need to take extra precautions. For example, confirm that your third-party vendor has security measures in place to ensure that only the people you authorize have access. In addition, cloud hosting allows for the encryption of your data. This means that it can’t be decoded by anyone outside of your organization. As an added benefit, not having your data stored in physical file cabinets prevents any loss during a natural disaster. If there is a fire or a power outage, your information is safe and sound once power is restored.
Authorized individuals are able to access your student data, but only to the level that you allow. You can limit access through password protection, giving authorized users access to only the information they need and nothing more. It would be a good idea to train your team on the creation of strong passwords as well. Oftentimes, people will create a password that’s easy to remember – a birthday, family member’s name, etc. – but those aren’t the most secure. A stronger password provides an added safety measure against any malicious hacks.
Unfortunately, even with the greatest protective measures in place – limited access, password protection, encryption – hackers can still access sensitive information. While it takes a great deal of time and effort to do this, school districts should still be prepared for the possibility of a breach. Have protocols in place to respond to these types of events, and communicate them both with your team internally and with your school community. Transparency in these situations is key. It is also a good idea to test your backup plans to make sure that everything is working if and when you need it.
With the rapid increase of remote learning in the last couple of years, technology has been a saving grace. However, rapid growth also comes with increased risks, so it is more important than ever to secure the safety of your student data through cloud hosting and restricted access, along with having a plan in place if a security breach does happen. Some things aren’t avoidable, but you can put measures in place to minimize your risks.
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