New guidelines focus on school cyber safety

GREEN BAY – The federal government released new guidelines to help keep your children and their identities safe while online at school.

It is something local schools say they are already working on.

From document sharing in the cloud to using apps in the classroom, the ABC’s of using the Internet securely at schools is constantly evolving.

Internet security experts say convenience can come at a price.

“It used to be that people were just worried about where you were keeping grades for instance but now that information is being used to track ID cards and maybe your food service so potentially that data is being replicated in you may be using that we refer to in the cloud,” said David Kieper, the information technology security officer at UW-Green Bay.

The U.S. Department of Education says school districts should make sure their contracts with technology providers protect student data. That means no selling or re-marketing information like names, email addresses or grades.

Green Bay says it’s ahead of the curve.

“We already have contracts in place with many of our online providers that would hit on all the criteria that the Department of Ed is requiring,” said Melissa Thiel Collar, legal counsel for the Green Bay Area Public School District.

The Green Bay Area Public School District says it requires teachers to get prior approval before downloading educational apps for the whole classroom to use. But parents still have a say. There is an opt-out form that’s sent home every fall.

The school district says it’s also taken other steps to protect student’s vital information from identity thieves.

“We discontinued using social security numbers. We don’t collect birth certificates, various different things in place that we don’t have that information,” said Thiel Collar.

“The secure transmission is set up so that a hacker would have no way to get access to that data,” said Kristine Vreugedenhill, the tech projects manager for Green Bay Area Public School District.

But technology security professionals warn even the best firewall systems aren’t completely hack-proof.

So districts have to remain vigilant.

“You want to make it convenient so that you can tie these systems together. The difficulty is that if any one of them is breached, then the data is lost to all of them,” said Kieper.

We checked in with other districts in the area. Most say they already follow the recommended guidelines. But, they’re a valuable reminder for online safety.

 

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