The Internet is an invaluable resource for teachers and students, but it’s also one that’s filled with risks as well. The education sector is commonly targeted by hackers, both because it has valuable data and because cyber security measures are inconsistent across districts, campuses, and buildings. They are prime targets for social engineering attacks such as phishing, since cyber security awareness may not be the same among the teacher and student population. Social engineering tactics can be particularly useful against larger organizations, as it’s less likely that an unfamiliar face or name would be out of place in that environment. On top of that risk, a lack of privacy can also stem from inappropriate social media settings, over sharing, and other factors that lead to reputation damage or cyberbullying. Use this complete web browsing privacy guide to protect teachers, students, and parents from all the dangers of web browsing.Understand Cyber Security Best PracticesThe first step of this process is understanding cyber security best practices and what that means in the classroom. Literacy in this area is an essential foundation before someone moves forward with the rest of this process. A significant amount of compromises in online privacy occur due to ignorance of online threats, or the best practices used to protect one’s personal identity and information online. The school district may have cyber security training available, or it can be accessed through many online resources and training programs. If there aren’t resources in place at the school, it’s also important to encourage the administration to add them in. The more faculty that understands online privacy, the better.Help Students Understand Online RisksToday’s students may be digital natives, but that doesn’t mean that they fully understand their privacy, or lack thereof, when they’re online browsing. It’s important to build on the knowledge they already have with age-appropriate cyber security training that emphasizes the problems that can occur during online browsing. Malware, identity theft, predators, and other issues could put students at risk during their school and personal lives. Create an environment that fosters online privacy and security, Encourage students to ask questions if they don’t understand something that occurs online. It’s possible that it’s a hacker or a predator trying to exploit the students in some way.Work With Parents to Improve Online PrivacyParents are also an important part in online privacy. It’s common for the children of the family to know the most about digital technology, especially if the parents are from a much older generation. The parents may not be aware of the risks that happen if someone isn’t privacy minded when they’re browsing public Internet resources and using social media sites. Create handouts and other resources for parents to review to help them better understand what the teacher is trying to focus on in the classroom. These lessons are useful in a home and work environment, so they’re setting everyone up for success.
Use Virtual Private Network Services for BrowsingOne of the best ways to improve online privacy is through a virtual private network service. The VPN encrypts the data that connects to websites, which means someone can’t steal it and use that information. If they take the data, it doesn’t come in a form that’s usable for them. Another way the VPN helps is by making it hard to pinpoint where the connections come from. It does that by sending the traffic through servers that might be located on the other side of the world. It’s easy to put a VPN in place, such as using a VPN extension for Chrome.
Look for Unauthorized Plugins and Add-ons on Web BrowsersThe computers at the school may not have all of the installation processes locked down. That makes it possible for students to install applications and plugin-ins on their workstations. The wrong software can lead to many issues with online privacy, especially if it’s a keylogger or another type of activity tracker. The school’s IT department should be looking at the systems on a regular basis, but teachers can also play a part in watching whether any unauthorized software is on the system. In an ideal situation, students would not have the necessary access to add anything other than documents to the system.Oversee Personal Peripheral UsageIf a student has files on a thumb drive, they may need to pull that data onto the school systems. Keep a close eye on these computers to make sure that malicious software that would compromise online privacy are not added. The network settings will generally stop this from happening, but some schools may not have properly configured networks that have this feature available.Keep Web Browsers UpdatedWeb browsers frequently publish updates to add new features and security fixes. If a browser is out of date, it’s entirely possible that online privacy ends up being compromised since it may be easier for a hacker to break into the system. This is another area where the IT department should be managing, but it’s worth reminding them if they aren’t getting to the updates in a timely manner. In most cases, the automated update feature should be enabled so that the most recent version of the software is always available in the classroom.Put Ad Blockers On SystemsMany companies try to track people’s online activities through cookies and other methods. Over time, they build up a profile of a person through their online activity and other data. The amount of information they can accumulate can be truly frightening, and it could be dangerous for students. Ad blockers prevent advertising from showing up on sites, and it can also stop malware being installed through malicious ads. Many types of ad blockers are available, and the VPN service may have that built-in as part of its feature set.Keep Passwords SecureIf students can get into a teacher’s computer, then they can create a lot of problems. Follow good password practices and frequently change the password. Don’t write it down on anything that’s close to the computer (or ideally, not at all). A password manager may be helpful in keeping track of things, as long as the master password never gets broken. The system administrators may have specific requirements for passwords that are accepted on the network, so check-in with them before changing anything up.
Put Two-Factor Authentication on Devices and AppsAvoid identity theft by setting up two-factor authentication on any apps and devices that support it. Encourage the students to do the same for their safety. The second form of authentication may be facial recognition, a fingerprint, a code from a physical authenticator, or another method. It’s not as convenient as only putting in a username and password, but it pays off in the long run. If a device gets stolen, then it also makes the person taking it have to work a lot harder to gain access to the information inside.Protect Your Mobile DevicesKeep mobile devices close at hand or in locked drawers when they’re not in use. It’s a simple matter of walking off with a mobile device, whether intentionally or unintentionally. If the physical security is as strong as the digital one is, aspiring hackers in school can’t use these devices to experiment with. Mobile devices also need strong privacy settings enabled on applications and the operating system itself to maximize online privacy.Stay Off Public WiFi NetworksIdeally, the school has a hard wired network in the classroom. That’s not always the case, or everyone may be out on a field trip. Avoid public WiFi networks whenever possible, as they can snoop into online browsing and compromise someone’s online privacy. If the school has to use public WIFI, heavy usage of the VPN can help students and teachers have better online privacy whenever they use it.Lock Down Social Media AccountsEncourage students to put strong privacy controls on all of their social media accounts, and to think carefully before sharing content on these networks. While many students are incredibly savvy when it comes to technology, they may not be as good at thinking of the long-term consequences of what they’re posting. Walk students through the privacy settings on popular social networks. It’s also helpful for teachers to keep their social media under wraps too. Students can be curious to the point of nosiness, which can lead to professional problems in some circumstances.Install Anti-Malware SolutionsThe devices and computers should all have anti-malware measures in place. Students may access sites with malware or download compromised files on the systems. An anti-malware program protects the system and the network by identifying and quarantining malicious software. Since some types of viruses can go through a network quickly, this is important to check on. Education institutions are a frequent ransomware target, which can take down an entire school or district.Remove Geotagging on ContentPhotos can have geolocation information included, which can lead to a student’s location being discovered by unsavory individuals or groups. This is particularly important if someone is on vacation, as they’re basically advertising that their home is unoccupied or they may be distracted by vacation activities. By removing this information on photos and videos, posting this content becomes much safer. Of course, it is also helpful if students pair this suggestion with a lock down on their social media, but that won’t always happen.
Online privacy is hard to maintain in a world that’s filled with data collection, trackers, and hackers. These tips protect teachers, students, and parents from some of the worst consequences of a lack of online privacy, as well as improving cyber security literacy overall.