5 Tips to Boost Cybersecurity in Your School

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. For K-12, it’s a good time to reflect on your efforts to protect your network and educate students on the importance of cybersecurity. When students and staff are online, they’re vulnerable to cybercriminals stealing data, passwords, and much more.

Children are especially vulnerable to hacking, as evidenced by this this 2017 report that shared how hackers have targeted schools with ransom demands and threats of violence. Fortunately, K-12 IT and teachers have access to smart solutions to keep students and schools protected.

Here are four tips to increase cybersecurity at your school now. Add your own tip in the comments section on this post or tweet it at @lightspeedsys — you’ll be entered to win a special swag box!

1. Create clear cybersecurity guidelines for staff. Have you put together guidelines on safe password usage? What about staff policies for downloading apps or plug-ins? These are important elements of day-to-day device use. Make sure employees know your cybersecurity policies and how your filtering policies play a part. Also make your acceptable use policy transparent and visible.

2. Get parents and teachers involved. It’s key to instill cybersecurity best practices in teachers and parents. Educated and empowered teachers can pass along their cybersecurity knowledge to students. Additionally, making sure parents are aware of your security practices is a great way to get them talking to students at home.
With Lightspeed Systems Relay, parents can receive automated weekly student activity reports through our Parent Report Generator, which can spark conversations about cybersecurity and appropriate device use.

3. Ensure malicious sites and content are blocked. Viruses can lurk in email attachments, websites, ads, social media, and holes in unpatched software. It takes powerful URL categorization with machine learning AI to identify the millions of new sites created each day.
Relay’s categorization engine processes more than 2 million new sites each day, ensuring security threats are blocked and categorized as soon as possible. Additionally, unlike other K-12 filters, Relay blocks unknown sites until they can be categorized, minimizing security risks.

Relay organizes security-risk sites into six categories:

  • Security: Security risks and sites providing information that poses security risks
  • Security – Malware: Viruses, Spyware, phishing
  • Security – Nettools: Filter bypass methods, tutorials, etc.
  • Security – Proxy: Anonymous proxies, tutorials
  • Security – Shorteners: URL shortening services
  • Security – Translators: Language translation sites

Not only does Relay block these categories by default, they’re also subject to lockouts. This means a student who attempts to visit security-risk sites one or more times will be locked out for a period of time, the duration of which can be set by the school admin. Schools can also display a message to locked-out students to explain why the lockout occurred, increasing student knowledge about cybersecurity.

4. Educate students on appropriate device use. Every K-12 IT employee has encountered problems with students who have attempted to bypass their school filter. K-12 students are very adept with devices but they may not be aware of the dangers of data breaches or how to protect their personal information online.

Jim Pulliam, CIO at Orange County Public Schools and a Lightspeed Systems customer, devised a brilliant strategy for for dealing with students who violate school security policies. “One of the most effective forms of discipline is having students who are caught breaching data security policies work with their school’s CIO and security team to share how they accomplished it and why they did it, and to assist with ongoing efforts to protect,” he said. “At Orange County Public Schools, we are proposing those students do presentations and trainings to teach their peers about data security.”

5. Deploy the best solutions to manage your 1:1 deployment. Too many schools get stuck with filters that fail to block some of the most malicious content online.

With Lightspeed Systems Relay, schools get the most robust web categorization and tools to protect your network. Compromising sites and filter bypass tools are easily identified and blocked by Relay to ensure student safety online. Plus, thanks to Relay’s BYOD Filter, guest devices and school-owned devices remain safe on the network.

Relay works to keep students productive while filtering out dangerous content. 

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