How schools can protect student data

Schools should take steps to protect student information.

Schools should take steps to protect student information.

The last thing you want to do is waste your time dealing with a data security breach. For schools that are making the move into the cloud and using more technology than they used to, this means setting up better network security protections. We all know it’s better to protect confidential information like student data and try to prevent a breach than deal with an issue after it happens.

There are signs that legislators are also getting more serious about how schools use and protect student data. In New York, parents are upset because school data was stored in a private database without parents’ permission, which they saw as a violation of student privacy.

A new law in Florida even allows parents to open a credit record for their child with the three consumer reporting agencies so it can be frozen. This is because a growing number of kids’ identities are being stolen and used to open credit card accounts.

How schools can protect student information
In the future, schools might be asked to demonstrate how they’re keeping their students’ information secure so they can prevent these kinds of problems. This is important because schools collect a massive amount of confidential data about their students, from test scores to birthdays to parent information to guidance counselor sessions.

Here are some ways that school IT departments can help protect student data:

  • Develop a data security and privacy plan: Schools need to determine how confidential information should be processed. This includes how it’s collected, used, disclosed and destroyed. By considering all the different ways data is used, it becomes easier to map out a data protection plan.
  • Apply firewalls and antivirus software: The school’s entire network should be secured against attacks and malware. By whitelisting applications, schools can control what their teachers and students download onto the network.
  • Data encryption: After data is received, it should be stored in a protected state to minimize risks. When data is emailed, it should also be sent in an encrypted form.
  • Secure devices used on the network: Schools should be proactive about developing a bring-your-own-device security plan. Teachers and students should both know what devices are allowed access to the school’s network and should limit where confidential information about students can be stored.
  • Wipe data when it’s not needed: Schools can use programs like Deep Freeze to eliminate confidential data that was stored temporarily on computers. This will prevent others from accessing the information in the future.

What do you think about these data protection practices? What other methods have you and your department used? Please share your thoughts below!

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.