How teachers can help pupils to reduce cybersecurity risks

With many people working or studying from home, the use of the Internet has been more intensive than ever, and with it,digital forms of crime have also increased significantly. This crisis is an unprecedented time forscammersand other cyber-criminals to find more victims than ever before andthe rush to adapt schools to the needs of remote learningis an extremely fertile territory for attacks.
That is whyevery party involvedshould bear their part of the responsibility for the security of the system as a whole, creating asynergybetween students and their families on one side and teachers and administrators on the other.

Making the right choices

EdTech offers many different tools, one more interesting than the next, but it should not be up to students and parents to choose which ones work best.Evaluating the pros and consof every tool at their disposal, both from an educational and a cybersecurity standpoint, is a burden that should fall primarily uponteachers and IT managerswith the know-how to understand which of the many possibilities best combine the features they need for online classes to run smoothly with the highest security standards.
Video conferencing, for example, raises its own concerns aboutsetting up student accountswith credentials that might end up in the wrong hands, accidentallyshowing glimpses of their private livesin the background of the online meetings, and possibly, if the platform in question is not a reputable one,being recordedand creating large quantities offootage of minorsthat may be used for criminal purposes.
Teachers and administrators, therefore, should choose their EdTech tools very carefully, always adhering to the philosophy thatall sources must be verifiedandthe less personal information is given, the better.
Stolen data and malicious software, however, are not the only perils when it comes to making the online school experience as secure as possible: video conferencing, chats, discussion forums and any other platform that allowsinteractionamong students are in need of strictobservation and moderationon the part of teachers and authority figures in order to spot and root out any sign ofcyberbullying, discrimination, threats, mental health red flagsand other concerning behaviours.
Responsible choices on the school side of the equation should relieve families of most of their concerns, butthat is not to say that students and their guardians have no part to playin the vital matter of cybersecurity.

Educating responsible citizens

Now that many students are learningfrom homerather than using school computers, the networkhas expandedto includepersonal devicesthat may or may not be fully updated and equipped with the appropriate protective software, which puts schools in aweaker positionthan before.
It is paramount thatwe make cybersecurity a part of our students’ education: school is meant to shape the citizens of tomorrow andencouraging best security practicesandmodelling correct online behaviourare two of the greatest gifts teachers can give the next generation.
Requiring, or at least strongly recommending, the latest software updates is a first and necessary step towards a safer remote learning experience, but even when all devices are properly outfitted for the journey,online classes are only as safe as we make them.
Reminding students toignore suspicious links and attachments, providing lists ofapproved websitesyou know to be safe for their research, and teaching themgood habitssuch aschanging their passwords regularlyandnot sharing them with anyone, being wary of anyone asking forpersonal information, andchecking the legitimacy of the website URLbefore browsing further, with particular attention to any variations in spelling or domain, are all relatively simple steps you can take to make remote learning safer and instil appropriate behaviours that will stay with them far beyond their school days, keeping them protectedin the workplaceandin their private livesas well.
Even your students’ parents and guardians may thank you for turning your attention to the matter of cybersecurity and potentiallyalerting them to any security weaknesses in their home devices: a proper cybersecurity education in the time of COVID-19 could stand tobenefit the long-term online safety of hundreds of families.

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