The Internet is an invaluable resource for teachers and students, but it’s also one that’s filled with risks as well. The education sector is commonly targeted by hackers, both because it has valuable data and because cyber security measures are inconsistent across districts, campuses, and buildings. They are prime targets for social engineering attacks such as phishing, since cyber security awareness may not be the same among the teacher and student population.
Understand Cyber Security Best Practices
The first step of this process is understanding cyber security best practices and what that means in the classroom. Literacy in this area is an essential foundation before someone moves forward with the rest of this process. A significant amount of compromises in online privacy occur due to ignorance of online threats, or the best practices used to protect one’s personal identity and information online.
Help Students Understand Online Risks
Today’s students may be digital natives, but that doesn’t mean that they fully understand their privacy, or lack thereof, when they’re online browsing. It’s important to build on the knowledge they already have with age-appropriate cyber security training that emphasizes the problems that can occur during online browsing.
Work With Parents to Improve Online Privacy
Parents are also an important part in online privacy. It’s common for the children of the family to know the most about digital technology, especially if the parents are from a much older generation. The parents may not be aware of the risks that happen if someone isn’t privacy minded when they’re browsing public Internet resources and using social media sites.
Use Virtual Private Network Services for Browsing
One of the best ways to improve online privacy is through a virtual private network service. The VPN encrypts the data that connects to websites, which means someone can’t steal it and use that information. If they take the data, it doesn’t come in a form that’s usable for them.
Look for Unauthorized Plugins and Add-ons on Web Browsers
The computers at the school may not have all of the installation processes locked down. That makes it possible for students to install applications and plugin-ins on their workstations. The wrong software can lead to many issues with online privacy, especially if it’s a keylogger or another type of activity tracker.
Oversee Personal Peripheral Usage
If a student has files on a thumb drive, they may need to pull that data onto the school systems. Keep a close eye on these computers to make sure that malicious software that would compromise online privacy are not added. The network settings will generally stop this from happening, but some schools may not have properly configured networks that have this feature available.
Keep Web Browsers Updated
Web browsers frequently publish updates to add new features and security fixes. If a browser is out of date, it’s entirely possible that online privacy ends up being compromised since it may be easier for a hacker to break into the system.
Put Ad Blockers On Systems
Many companies try to track people’s online activities through cookies and other methods. Over time, they build up a profile of a person through their online activity and other data. The amount of information they can accumulate can be truly frightening, and it could be dangerous for students.
Keep Passwords Secure
If students can get into a teacher’s computer, then they can create a lot of problems. Follow good password practices and frequently change the password. Don’t write it down on anything that’s close to the computer (or ideally, not at all).
Put Two-Factor Authentication on Devices and Apps
Avoid identity theft by setting up two-factor authentication on any apps and devices that support it. Encourage the students to do the same for their safety. The second form of authentication may be facial recognition, a fingerprint, a code from a physical authenticator, or another method.
Protect Your Mobile Devices
Keep mobile devices close at hand or in locked drawers when they’re not in use. It’s a simple matter of walking off with a mobile device, whether intentionally or unintentionally. If the physical security is as strong as the digital one is, aspiring hackers in school can’t use these devices to experiment with. Mobile devices also need strong privacy settings enabled on applications and the operating system itself to maximize online privacy.
Stay Off Public WiFi Networks
Ideally, the school has a hard wired network in the classroom. That’s not always the case, or everyone may be out on a field trip. Avoid public WiFi networks whenever possible, as they can snoop into online browsing and compromise someone’s online privacy. If the school has to use public WIFI, heavy usage of the VPN can help students and teachers have better online privacy whenever they use it.
Lock Down Social Media Accounts
Encourage students to put strong privacy controls on all of their social media accounts, and to think carefully before sharing content on these networks. While many students are incredibly savvy when it comes to technology, they may not be as good at thinking of the long-term consequences of what they’re posting.
Install Anti-Malware Solutions
The devices and computers should all have anti-malware measures in place. Students may access sites with malware or download compromised files on the systems. An anti-malware program protects the system and the network by identifying and quarantining malicious software. Since some types of viruses can go through a network quickly, this is important to check on. Education institutions are a frequent ransomware target, which can take down an entire school or district.
Remove Geotagging on Content
Photos can have geolocation information included, which can lead to a student’s location being discovered by unsavory individuals or groups. This is particularly important if someone is on vacation, as they’re basically advertising that their home is unoccupied or they may be distracted by vacation activities.
Online privacy is hard to maintain in a world that’s filled with data collection, trackers, and hackers. These tips protect teachers, students, and parents from some of the worst consequences of a lack of online privacy, as well as improving cybersecurity literacy overall.
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