Australian schools are increasingly becoming the prime target of cyber hackers who collect private information and behavioural detail to build a digital profile of a student from a young age.
To address these threats, some schools are restricting the use of digital media inside classrooms. However, some education experts say that sweeping measures such as banning mobile phones is an ineffective solution.
So how can principals respond to cyberthreats without being too restrictive on digital devices?
Anthony Smith, general manager HPE Aruba ANZ, says that in order to address rising cyber-threats without denying access to fundamental technology that enhances learning, schools should take a two-pronged approach.
“First, educating students on cyber threats is critical,” Smith told The Educator.
“Providing students with real world examples that show how cyber hackers can steal and use their information without their knowledge will help students understand why their digital security is just as important as their physical security.”
Secondly, says Smith, it is vital that schools work closely with their IT teams to establish and optimise secure technology infrastructures, which allow students to learn and develop in a safe environment.
“A robust cyber security solution is essential to plug the gaps that IoT devices create in school’s IT security networks, ensuring IT teams have control over which devices are connected as well as their authorised activity,” Smith pointed out.
“The network visibility that a holistic security solution provides is also key to ensuring seamless management.”
And schools aren’t alone in this battle. A 2018 study Aruba commissioned with the Ponemon Institute found 66% of global IT practitioners said their organisations had no, or a low ability, to secure their IOT devices and apps.
Smith said there are ways in which schools help children understand the digital profile they are building so they can be aware and prudent of cyberthreats.
“Most of us focus on our current digital activity, like uploading pictures of our latest holiday, and don’t necessarily appreciate the digital profile that we’re in fact building whilst online,” he said.
“Schools are well positioned to educate young people on cyber threats, demonstrating to students the type of data that is available about them online and the information that cyber-hackers typically look for and why.”
Smith said this means students can then ensure they are engaging with applications and the internet in a safe and responsible way, both within and outside of the school environment.
“Schools can also help students to understand the different ways that hackers can access this data, for example through unsecure Wi-Fi networks, hotspots or social media profiles,” he said.
“It’s also important that children are educated on the steps they can take to protect themselves in the digital world.”