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As Schools Move Online, So Do Security Threats. Here's What Experts Say You Can Do

Zach Herndon

Efforts to protect student privacy online are more crucial than ever as schools nationwide rely on the internet to connect with students and families, and with fraudulent activity on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. And experts say awareness of cyber security threats and solutions is half the battle.

One of the fastest rising virtual meeting platforms Zoom, was banned by New York Cityschools over data and privacy concerns. 

Bill Rader sits on the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators board and is technology director for Danville Community Schools. He says some schools in Indiana have chosen not to use Zoom, but plenty of teachers still do and like the platform.

The platform recently updated its software, something Rader says has helped address concerns about data privacy. 

But regardless of which platform or tools people use online, Rader says there are important steps people can take to prevent uninvited guests from disrupting virtual meetings between staff and students.

"Things as simple as: don't broadcast the URL to your meeting," he says.

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Scott Shackelford is the chair of Indiana University's cyber security program. He agrees, and says cyber security is like personal hygiene: it won't ever be perfect, but it's important to pay attention to on an ongoing basis – especially considering the massive amounts of student data schools are home to.

"We're never going to exercise perfect cyber hygiene. But we can do a lot of things to make it a lot better, frankly," he says.

Shackelford and Rader both say people should look at how data is being used by companies and simple steps they can take to prevent people from accessing their information, like not reusing passwords, and customizing the privacy settings of any online platform or app. 

Contact Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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