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How can schools protect students vulnerable data: top tips

Looking after the data of students has become a more and more difficult task for schools over time. The influx of different devices and ways to connect to the internet has only complicated the matter, particularly for those who were not raised computer-literate. However, the duty is on the school to provide this protection, so it is important to be familiar with the best practices in this sector. Here are some key tips for protecting data where possible.

Invest in a firewall
This should be robust and reinforced with extra security measures. Ensure that the company you use is aware of your needs so that they understand the level of security that you require. Before you make any changes to the system or allow a third party to have access, this should always be checked and reinforced. It also needs updating regularly to patch up gaps which could be exploited by those who might want to get access to the data.

Encourage good passwords
Students and staff should both be encouraged to follow best practices with passwords. This means choosing longer passwords which contain both numbers and letters, and utilise both upper and lowercase if possible. They should be warned never to write their password down or share it with anyone else. This helps to ensure that data leaks do not come from within the school. Everyone should also be reminded to sign off and shut down their computer at the end of the day or lesson, to avoid unauthorised use of their account.

Use a VPN
You can protect students from incoming viruses and data leaks using a VPN. A VPN is equivalent to a firewall when connecting to a public network, and protects the specific machine connecting to it. You can also encourage the use of a VPN when teachers or students log on to their own devices through the school’s Wi-Fi network. This prevents data from leaking in either direction.

Create back-ups
If you have very important data that needs to be protected, consider backing it up. However, a back-up on the same network or on the same site is not useful. You need to be sure that your back-up is stored elsewhere, in a location which you are sure is highly secure. This will help to ensure that any important data is not lost in the case of virus infection or other cyber-attack.

Protect Important Data
When logging on to access very secure data, such as the home addresses of students or staff, consider adding a two-factor authentication process. This can take the form of entering a password as well as needing to verify a code sent to their mobile phone, for example. It could also be photographic recognition, or the use of a second code which is known only by certain individuals. Security questions, such as asking the user to name their first pet or their mother’s maiden name, can also help.

Offer Lessons on Cyber-security
It is important that everyone within the school knows how to protect their data, not just for the present moment but also for their data at home and in the world of work. Give lessons on online security to teach your staff and students the right ways to stay safe online. The training can even take in some of the factors that we have mentioned above, such as password security.

While it may seem daunting to start new protection regimes, student data must be kept safe at all times. This is a big priority, and it only requires a few changes to get even ancient systems up to date.

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