By Charles Sweeney, CEO, Bloxx
Education and technology are now linked more than ever before. Teachers and institutions benefit enormously from the access and communication that technology affords; they also need to understand it as it’s the world their students inhabit. But the extraordinary growth of the internet and pace of technological development leaves no room for complacency. Institutions are responsible for ensuring that their student learning environments are safe – and the risk that poor IT security will lead to an incident is too high to ignore.
It’s vital to understand what these risks are and how they are shaping the education environment.To this end, Bloxx has designed a survey with Education Technology to glean insights that will inform decision-makers within education about the general status of IT security, where progress has been made in the past 12 months, and what needs attention in the next year.
The survey focuses on the following key risk areas – social media and BYOD, cloud technology, and prevent duty of care. Below is an overview of these areas, and how the survey will look to explore them.
Social media – Social media is the playground of choice for students and one of the biggest challenges to IT security, particularly in schools. Teachers can enforce internet controls on their grounds but can’t dictate the time a student spends on social media at home or on their own internet-enabled devices. Pupils are becoming savvier at finding their way around firewalls and create vast amounts of content and data on multiple platforms. Teachers are also using social media more than ever. Are institutions regularly revisiting their IT strategy to ensure they are putting the best measures in place to stay ahead in this area? Are their policies up to date and do both teachers and students understand the risks of social media? Being willing to adapt and respond to the environment comes first; taking the right steps comes next.
BYOD – Personal devices are an unstoppable force within education. Students and teachers are taking up new devices, from phones to tablets and even watches, at soaring rates and bringing them into their institutions. But with BYOD now a largely accepted culture, how is security more vulnerable? Personal devices make an organisation’s IT infrastructure more complex – for example, students gaining access to a school’s intranet through their phone network (instead of the local WiFi) can cause serious security breaches and compliance issues. It’s simple math – the more devices, the higher the threat. With more advanced types of devices pegged for release in the future, outdated IT legacy systems will struggle to respond. Updating these systems will be key to meeting the challenges of this new environment.
Prevent Duty of Care – Earlier this year, the UK Government passed a statutory duty for education authorities to ‘prevent people being drawn into terrorism’ on the internet. It’s a broad directive – so how best can it be followed? With effective web filtering, firewalls and end-point security measures, backed up by a commitment to raising awareness of the risks associated with radicalisation among teachers and students. So far, institutions have not taken this as seriously as they should (due in part to the lack of detail in the statutory duty) but with the obvious dangers posed by slips through the cracks, changing this is vital.
Cloud technology – The cloud is becoming increasingly prevalent within the education sector, and whilst it is a flexible and cost effective way to integrate the newest technologies into the classroom, it also brings with it certain risks. As institutions embrace the cloud and increase the number of online touchpoints allowed in their organisation, the risk of security failures also increases. The cloud needs to be centrally managed, as without a clear birds-eye view, addressing a vulnerability in one place may introduce another one somewhere else. There needs to be a common standard within organisations, especially where staff are more mobile, with everyone following a clear set of up-to-date guidelines.
The results of our survey will help the education sector understand the IT security risks they face in greater depth and highlight the opportunities they have to counter them. We hope you’ll find a few moments to participate and share your learnings with peers and counterparts so we can augment the overall IT security picture in the UK for everyone’s benefit.