Cybersecurity in Schools
CyberReef is committed to providing protected internet access through its Data Control for Education solution.
As digital omnipresence seamlessly penetrates all aspects of our lives, our schools aren’t immune to falling prey to cybersecurity breaches. Cybersecurity responsibility is yet another aspect of keeping our students safe. It should be regarded as no more a burden than safeguarding our children against physical threats.
Angela Farmer, assistant professor of educational leadership for Mississippi State University, has explained how the education landscape is changing to the Tupelo, MS-based Daily Journal:
“Clearly the digital world has reinvented the nation’s schools, whose primary charter was crafted to educate students. These additional burdens of cybersecurity require not only enhanced focus, but significant funding support in terms of contracts with vendors as well as human resources capital. Employees dedicated to monitoring potential breaches, as well as closing valid gaps in security within the system, have become critical to student cyber safety.”
Of course, there are laws in place to help monitor security in schools and establish safeguards to prevent interactions that could compromise student safety. One of those regulations is the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools to proactively use filters to block or restrict “children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet.” CIPA was enacted by Congress in 2000, and the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA in early 2001. The rules were then updated in 2011.
CIPA requires schools and libraries that are eligible for the E-rate program that provides discounts for internet access to adhere to a certain internet safety policy. This involves blocking or filtering any information or visuals considered obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors. Eligible institutions are also required to hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the adoption of this internet safety policy. Other certification requirements include monitoring the online activities of minors; and educating minors about appropriate online behavior.
CIPA addresses the following main areas:
- Safety and security of Internet content, including e-mail, social networking, and other forms of direct e-communication (chat rooms, etc.)
- Cyberbullying awareness and response
- Restricting access to materials harmful to minors
- Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors
To receive E-rate funding, schools and libraries must certify they are in compliance with CIPA. CIPA does not, however, track or regulate lawful internet access for adults. It also doesn’t apply to telecommunications.
Another important regulation with which educators must comply is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. Enacted in 1998 and amended in 2013, it regulates the internet collection of private information on children under 13. The rule applies to commercial websites and online services, including mobile apps; and is designed to protect minors’ digital records from security breaches, among other things. Two other privacy-related acts that educators must be aware of, and that go along with CIPA and COPPA, are the Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Cyberbullying deserves a separate mention as it is one of the most severe and increasingly commonplace threats students face within their cyber communities. Insidious and deadly, it’s considered one of the main culprits in doubling the number of children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions in the U.S. over the last decade, according to recent research.
Other findings connected to cyberbullying are also troubling, including:
- • Nearly half of young people, according to one study, reported receiving “intimidating, threatening or nasty messages online.”
- A found link between intensive social media use and ill mental health.
- The fact that underage children use social media for longer periods, and use multiple profiles.
Top Cybersecurity Threats in Schools
The issues the U.S. schools face these days fall into three major categories: internet usage monitoring, cybersecurity, and protection of digital information. With all the recent ransomware attacks educators should place cybersecurity on the list of top concerns.
Here are the main five to be aware of, and prepare for:
- Dated technology. The older the operating system the more vulnerable it is to a cyberattack. Keeping up with software upgrades and blocking certain apps could help address this issue.
- Unknown devices accessing the network. If students and staff can bring their own devices to school, ideally the school’s IT staff will have a robust system in place to protect the network and track all devices.
- User error. This could mean an accidental reveal of private information due to using compromised sites, or failure to restrict access to sensitive files.
- Compromised link security. As the security breaches resulting from phishing or spamming become more sophisticated there are ways to filter and scan email efficiently.
- Lack of backup. Security breaches can become a much worse problem if there’s no backup system in place.
CyberReef is committed to providing protected internet access through its Data Control for Education solution. We work in conjunction with major mobile operators in the United States to provide broadband at home and on school buses with CIPA filtering. We also provide schools with a portal to modify filtering to allow or deny access to age-appropriate websites.
If you’d like to know more about providing safer internet access while giving students more opportunities to access the internet for their studies, please contact the experts at CyberReef today.