Schools routinely collect student data, but is it safe? This infographic from the LapSafe Blog reports that mobile devices were stolen from 45 percent of the United Kingdom education establishments it surveyed. LapSafe did a study of information communications technology (ICT) security for 100 schools, colleges and universities in the UK for the 2009-2011 period. The mobile technology stolen from schools included laptops, tablets, gaming devices, netbooks and MP3 players.
The risks are not limited to schools in the United Kingdom. A 2011 article from The Huffington Post discussed various security breaches of school data systems in the United States. For example, when two laptops were stolen from a state contractor's car, the thief gained access to the Social Security numbers of almost 8,000 special education students in Illinois. Huffington Post refers to a 2011 survey of more than 100 information technology employees at K-12 schools in the U.S., which uncovered that only half of those schools were encrypting sensitive data.
The topic of mobile data theft from schools is broad-ranging. Theft of student devices includes their own possessions, such as cell phones, as well as technology issued to them by schools. The infographic from LapSafe blog focuses on the theft of devices that store confidential information about students, and it shows that 55 percent of the UK schools it surveyed did not encrypt laptops that could store student data.
Keeping student data safe
LapSafe recommends information assurance guidelines such as these for educational institutions:
- Update security policies and organize training about them
- Encrypt devices
- Lock devices and provide physical security
Of course, common sense precautions also apply: CNET has detailed suggestions for keeping smartphones safe, and some of the basics work for other devices, too: Keep them stored out of sight, and never leave them alone.
Tech devices that schools provide to students are also at risk of theft, as various school districts have discovered. EDTECH reports on safety suggestions for school-issued mobile devices, including physical etchings and embedded tracking software that may offer geofencing capabilities.
For more details, please refer to the infographic from the LapSafe Blog. LapSafe also offers a case study about the company's work with a UK primary school that had seen laptops stolen twice in two months.
(Full disclosure: LapSafe offers storage and security products designed for mobile devices.)
How to Combat Notebook Theft, EDTECH, November 2011, Anne Rawland Gabriel, http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2011/11/strategies-preventing-notebook-theft
In Push For Data, Schools Expose Students To Identity Theft, The Huffington Post, Gerry Smith, December 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/students-identity-theft_n_1140119.html
Minimize the chances of becoming the latest victim of personal-electronics thieves by keeping a low profile and being ready to remotely erase your private data, CNET, Dennis O'Reilly, September 2012, http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57510064-285/how-to-prevent-phone-and-tablet-theft/
An infographic from LapSafe Products Blog, http://lapsafe.wordpress.com/