Privacy Awareness Week special: The Role of Educators

Privacy Awareness Week special: The Role of Educators

by Ian Yip

Debates about privacy and use of data are at the forefront of Australians’ minds. These concerns carry across to the education sector, with educators playing a pivotal role in forming cybersecurity awareness amongst young people.

As the connected world expands into the classroom, education from a young age about how to avoid potential online privacy dangers is essential.

A survey by McAfee revealed that concern around privacy is growing, with 54 per cent of respondents saying they are more concerned about cybersecurity today than five years ago, yet they take few proactive steps towards protecting their connected devices.

For example, while two-thirds rank protection of their identity as the first or second most important cybersecurity concern, a startling 83 per cent do not see protecting their connected devices as a top priority. Further, only 58 per cent of respondents have changed the default password on new devices and regularly change their passwords.

With a lack of awareness on how to protect connected devices, there is a disconnect between the privacy level Australians want, and the steps they actually need to take to stay safe. What people don’t realise is that protecting their privacy and the security level of their connected devices are tied together - you can’t have one without the other.

Given the current generation of school children are all digital natives, it is imperative that educators step in early to ensure that good cybersecurity hygiene becomes a given, not an afterthought. Explain the potential dangers of unsafe cyber practices using relatable examples that demonstrate the implications of their risky digital behaviours. For example, using easy to guess passwords could lead to private photos being accessed and shared without consent or downloading unknown applications may lead to homework files becoming corrupted and unusable.  

As part of Privacy Awareness Week, McAfee have compiled top tips for educators to share with students to ensure a safer online experience.

  • Educate students on the importance of complex and unique passwords when setting devices and creating any new accounts. A combination of lower and upper case, letters, numbers and special characters is ideal. Some schools get staff and students to reset their passwords at the beginning of each semester.
  • Ensure students keep their software up to date. With any connected device, as soon as software updates become available, download them immediately to prevent cyber criminals from taking advantage of security flaws. This is especially important in schools with BYOD programs, as the frequency of updates will vary between devices.
  • Encourage students to always read the privacy terms and conditions of your online accounts so you know exactly how your data is being used.
  • Stress the importance of not downloading apps from unknown sources. They may be designed to mine your personal information.
  • Advise students to avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi, especially when entering personal information online, as it can leave you vulnerable to all sorts of nasty attacks.
  • Encourage students and staff to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt connections and keep your data secure when sharing online.
  • School IT professionals should enable multi-factor authentication where available to reduce the risk of having school accounts and learning management systems accessed by someone else.

Ian Yip is the CTO of APAC at McAfee, an American global computer security software company headquartered in Santa Clara, California.


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