by Larry Parece, Director of Technology
West Clermont Schools
The FBI recently identified public education as the fastest-growing target for cybercrime. Given the rapid shift to remote learning accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise. Under the best of circumstances, any organization with a digital footprint is at risk, and the past couple of years have been far from the best of circumstances.
Even before the pandemic, West Clermont focused a great deal of time and energy on keeping students and staff safe in school and online. The One to Wolf program, which provides a Chromebook computer to every West Clermont student, was about midway into a multi-year implementation schedule. While no combination of cybersecurity safeguards is foolproof (if one existed, every bank and online retailer in the world would be using it), cybersecurity planning was embedded in the district’s larger, multi-pronged safety plan. Then along came COVID which changed the entire landscape. Fortunately, the district was able to adapt its longer-term plans for rapid execution. Chromebooks were placed in every student’s hands within months, not years, and strategies for enhancing cybersafety for all district users were accelerated as well. Some of these efforts include:
- Chromebook Content Filtering - District leaders know that the curiosity of students can be a double-edged sword. We want our students to be inquisitive, but we also know their curiosity may not always be academic. For that reason, the district uses software to filter student access to sites that contain inappropriate information. This software runs on all district-issued Chromebooks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Should a student attempt to access a website containing questionable content, that information is blocked, and a building administrator is notified. The administrator can review the matter and intervene if necessary.
- Network Content Filtering - As an added layer of protection, and in compliance with federal requirements, the district has blocked access to “questionable” websites from any device connected to the district network for many years. Unlike the Chromebook Content Filtering described above, which operates on the students’ Chromebooks 24/7, no matter where they connect to the internet, this filtering system provides protection to every user connected to the West Clermont network, whether staff, student or guest.
- Classroom Management Tools - As much as we would like to believe that students are so engaged they remain focused on their schoolwork during their time with us, we know that attention wanders. And while the device we issue to each student is a gateway to vast amounts of valuable information, it presents yet another possible distraction from classroom activities. To assist those students who need some help maintaining focus while at school, teachers have been provided with tools to guide students’ online activities in class. Each teacher can restrict student access to only those websites they want students to use for the current lesson, and they can customize the available sites by the student, group, or the entire class.
- Layered Antivirus Protection - We have all become so familiar with the need for antivirus software that it may seem hardly worth mentioning, but the fact is viruses have changed a lot in recent years. To keep up, West Clermont uses antivirus detection at several points within its computer network to provide the earliest possible identification of an attempted intrusion.
The protections outlined here are just a few of the tools the district is using to keep our users and their data safe. We know there is no combination of cybersecurity strategies that can guarantee we are safe from a determined cybercriminal, but as these threats grow and evolve, West Clermont will continue to evolve its tactics to provide the safest possible place to teach and learn.