Going on the Offensive: Cyber Security Strategies for Schools

Cyber Security: Concerns, Strategies and Solutions for Schools edWebinar recording link


Do you know where your data is stored? With the increased emphasis on student data privacy, many school leaders might think they have a handle on cyber security. But even that seemingly simple question may have complex answers. Presenters in the recent edWebinar, “Cyber Security: Concerns, Strategies and Solutions for Schools,” warned that with the increasing variety and strength of cyber attacks, most schools will face incursions. They offered key strategies for going on the offensive against hackers.

  • Educate all staff members frequently and thoroughly. Many schools still rely on the once-a-year cyber security seminar or focus on too narrowly on a specific issue, like not posting student info online. Education programs need to be more comprehensive and ongoing throughout the year. For example, CoSN counts phishing (sending fraudulent emails from seemingly credible accounts) as a top security threat to schools. Manheim Central School District (PA) Superintendent Dr. Peter Aiken said they partnered with a company to educate their staff about email threats. The company periodically sends phishing tests to staff; those that get caught clicking on the emails are given remedial lessons.
  • Filter information coming into buildings and to school email addresses. While teachers may complain, having website filters and blocks can decrease the possibility of criminals accessing the schools’ tech through the web. In addition, many of the presenters employ geofencing for their school emails, most often preventing emails from outside the United States from coming through. (Non-US emails can be approved on a case-by-case basis.)

Cyber Security: Concerns, Strategies and Solutions for Schools edWebinar image

  • Develop a comprehensive disaster plan. Hope for the best and plan for the worst, advised Dr. Donna Wright, Director of Schools, Wilson County Schools (TN). School leaders should have a plan for each system: how the information is backed up, how to shut down the affected system and disengage it from the network, and how and what recovery will look like. Schools need to have a rapid response to any attacks and understand what to do for a rapid recovery. In addition, many districts have started purchasing cyber security insurance. However, coverage depends on the schools’—and most likely the vendors’—compliance with the policy’s parameters.
  • Know the life of your data. This starts with knowing where the data is stored (on site, in the cloud, where the back-up files are, etc.). Schools should also classify data (e.g., public, internal, admin only) so they know who can view it, modify it, and dispose of it. Additional questions include: Who has access to data on site and at a vendor? How do the vendors treat your data? And if you leave a vendor, what is their policy for destruction and disposal of data?

Overall, schools are moving on from acceptable use policies to coverage from exposure. That doesn’t mean, though, that those original policies are dead. Instead, they’ve expanded to cover responsible use, identities, biometrics, safety, and so on. “It’s not just one policy for the librarian anymore. Now, it’s a policy for everybody,” said Dr. Michael Lubelfeld, Superintendent of Schools, North Shore School District 112 (IL). “And I know sometimes we get busy, and we don’t want to think about this, but it’s essential to have your priorities and procedures in place and educate folks that you have new practices. Everyone is at risk.”

The edWeb webinar referenced above was hosted by CoSN and sponsored by ClassLink.

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This article was modified and published by EdScoop.

About the Presenters

Dr. Peter Aiken is currently the superintendent of Manheim Central School District. He is passionate about preparing students for a world that gets crazier by the day. Dr. Aiken began his teaching career in Norfolk, VA as a reading teacher. He returned to Pittsburgh as a high school english teacher. On his way to becoming a superintendent of schools, he has served and garnered tremendous leadership lessons as an assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. Dr. Aiken’s core leadership tenet is everything rises and falls on relationships. Originally from Oakmont, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Dr. Aiken now resides in Lancaster, PA, with his wife and three kids. He is an avid reader; often found running and ruminating after a great read. You are invited to connect with him on Twitter and share your favorite leadership book at @pj_aiken. You can also read his leadership blog at http://www.educationrewired.org.

Dr. Mike Lubelfeld currently serves as the superintendent of schools in the North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, and Highwood, IL. He earned his Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University of Chicago, where his published dissertation was on effective instruction in middle school social studies. He is also on the adjunct faculty at National Louis University in the Department of Educational Leadership. Dr. Lubelfeld can be found on Twitter at @mikelubelfeld, and he co-moderates #suptchat, the monthly superintendent educational chat on Twitter. He co-authored the 2017 Rowman & Littlefield book The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today and the 2018 Rowman & Littlefield book Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable. Dr. Lubelfeld has been married to his wife Stephanie for the past 15 years and they have two children.

Dr. Donna Wright began serving as Director of Schools for Wilson County Schools in 2014. Wilson County Schools is a rapidly growing school district of 19,000 students located outside of Nashville, TN. In the last several years district-wide academic performance has significantly improved; the district is undergoing the largest school building program in the history of the county; a concentrated emphasis on early literacy instruction is a focal point, and college and career readiness is a hallmark in middle and high schools. She has worked in public school education, K-12 and Higher Ed, for nearly forty years. The Center for Digital Education and The National School Board Association recognized Wilson County Schools for its innovative use of technology.

Dr. Wright holds a Doctorate in Leadership Studies from the University of Tennessee, has earned several awards, including the Women of Achievement Award and the UT Educators Hall of Honor Award. In September of this year (2019), Dr. Donna Wright was named the 2020 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year.

Dr. Rich Contartesi, an accomplished K12 Assistant Superintendent, CIO, and CTO, is currently CEO and Co-Founder of K12 as a Service. Rich’s experience provides a unique strategic and operational perspective to develop, lead, and integrate technology, instruction and business functions. He has successfully led the implementation of enterprise-level student information systems, instructional management and learning systems; data warehouse, security, infrastructure, bandwidth, iPads, Chromebooks, mobile devices, BYOT, 1:1 including shared and individual student devices, and ERP financial systems. Rich is an active speaker, co-author, contributor, panelist, and presenter for numerous technology and educational organizations including CoSN, IMS Global, Data Quality Campaign, the BLE-Group, FETC, ISTE, VSTE, and the Council of Great City Schools.

About the Host

Ann McMullan is Project Director for CoSN’s Empowered Superintendents Initiative. Ann served as Executive Director, Educational Technology in the Klein Independent School District, near Houston, Texas until September 2013, when she and her family moved to Los Angeles, California. For 16 years Ann led the district team that provided professional development on technology and 21st century instructional strategies to 4,000 professional educators serving 50,000 students. Ann served as co-chair of Texas Education Technology Advisory Committee which developed the Texas Long Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020. Today, Ann is based in Los Angeles working as a public speaker, writer, and education consultant focused on leadership and planning to meet the needs of today’s students. Ann serves on the Project Tomorrow advisory council and is a leadership consultant with Executive Service Corps of Southern California, serving non-profit associations. Ann co-authored Life Lessons in Leadership, a guide for leaders ages eight to 88.

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CoSN CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community, best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education.