Schools would be wise to take precautions with technology

Hackers do not much care about the size of the school district, when taking advantage of our growing dependence on technology and access. Coventry Local School District, in Akron, Ohio, has about 2,000 students in total. School was closed there entirely in May as the FBI helped guide district officials through recovery when a virus infected the network.

“Why this little school in Akron, Ohio?” said Kelly Kendrick, that district’s technology director. “It has really opened my eyes to how data of any kind is marketable, sellable.”

Funding requests go out constantly for more tech, more networking ability. And while technology and access to the Internet have done incredible things for education, they also bring a danger to our schools.

As with many shiny new trends (in all industries, not just education), it is only after we are past the point of no return that we realize some drawbacks. Providing our children with state-of-the-art technology and access to the practically limitless sources of information online is important.

But now that many schools are entirely dependent on that technology and its networks, hackers are able to breach data files, including a lot of sensitive information, install viruses and initiate denial-of-service attacks that cripple schools.

The FBI even issued an official warning that the growth of education technologies and widespread collection of student data and other information “could have privacy and safety implications if compromised or exploited.”

School systems that have issued a connected digital device to each student, teacher and administrator in its system are even more vulnerable.

While the FBI has some best practices to offer, it notes districts without one or more employees dedicated to information security are more at risk. There are recommendations for cybersecurity insurance and a shift away from cultures in schools that tend to be more open than, say, a typical financial institution.

School systems would do well to listen to that advice. But there is another important adjustment to make. Do not stray so far away from your education roots that a disconnection from technology cripples the school system and renders teachers unable to do their jobs.

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