It’s an administrator’s nightmare – students hacking school databases to change grades, stealing computer passwords, infecting computers with key-stroke logging malware, accessing secure sections of school sites, posting pornography or hate content on school sites, or hijacking a school’s website.
And it is a reality schools across the country struggle with.
“Students are very, very tech-savvy. Far more savvy than the majority of adults at our school,” says Michael Wilson, the principal of the 775-student Haddonfield Memorial High where keystroke logging malware was used to discover passwords and gain access to protected areas on the school’s computer network.
School systems are uniquely vulnerable to hacking, says James E. Culbert, an information-security analyst for the 135,000-student Duval County schools in Jacksonville, Fla. “In the case of our school system, we’ve got 135,000 [potential] hackers within our district, inside of our same network that houses our student-information systems and HR systems.”
Staying ahead of would-be hackers is not a one-fix solution; it’s an ongoing process that periodically assesses new and existing threats and updates security practices.
If you’re school is struggling with hacking, or you are unsure of the steps your school is taking, review the 8 Tips to preventing student hackers from accessing school computers:
- Ensure school computers have up-to-date security software installed, and that it automatically updates. Be sure firewalls are set, and enforce the use of strong passwords.
- Set the ground rules that outline what is (and isn’t) acceptable use of school computers, and make sure students and their parents are aware of both the rules and the consequences for hacking, harassment security breaches, or failing to adhere to the schools acceptable use policy. Talk about these standards periodically, not just during the first week of school.
- Leverage content filtering technologies that help prevent students from seeking out inappropriate online content.
- Swiftly and consistently, address any misuse of the schools computer system.
- Require each user – teacher or student – to use a unique login. Some schools have strengthened their networks by clearly identifying if it is a teacher or a student who is logging in. Some also time-stamp when the account was last accessed allowing teachers to quickly see if their account has been compromised.
- Use two networks – one for students, another for teachers and staff. This makes it harder for students to hack into sensitive information.
- Educate teachers, staff and parent volunteers about the school’s internet access policies so they can stay vigilant in monitoring students online use and actions.
- Teach internet safety and digital responsibility to help students develop a strong online ethic.
Its the start of a new school year, let’s get it started securely.