Students Are Bringing Chromebooks Home from School, and That’s Creating...

Opinion | Data Privacy

Students Are Bringing Chromebooks Home from School, and That’s Creating Cybersecurity Issues

By Peter Martini     Jul 2, 2016

Students Are Bringing Chromebooks Home from School, and That’s Creating Cybersecurity Issues

Chromebooks have displaced iPads as the most popular new devices shipping to U.S. schools. The $199 and up Chromebooks have gone from absolutely no market share to now taking more than a quarter of the educational market – and all in just two years. By the end of 2016, schools are predicted to have more Chromebooks than iPads distributed across their student population.

Many of the educational applications students use today—Google Docs, MinecraftEdu, StudyBlue and others—are web-based, making Chromebooks apt for how modern educators are teaching and how students are comfortable learning. And because all these apps and data for Chromebooks reside on Google’s cloud, they are also easier to maintain, backup and keep secure.

But schools are now dealing with some unanticipated cybersecurity and Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance challenges that are arising as a result of the increased use of Chromebooks. One major issue that schools have faced in their implementation of Chromebooks is the desire by educators to allow students to take the devices home, allowing them to work on school assignments, do research and learn anytime, anywhere. But home networks often do not have the same protections as schools, meaning students may be able to access inappropriate websites or inadvertently visit sites with malware.

So even though both iPads and Chromebooks are generally considered to offer better security than laptops, students bringing their machines off-campus can create increased cybersecurity risks as well as make it difficult to achieve CIPA compliance. To prevent such malware from entering the system, school administrators and IT professionals should take these steps to improve Chromebook security and ensure CIPA compliance while these devices are off network:

  • Make sure anti-malware and anti-phishing technology are enabled across all Chromebooks. This can be accomplished with security solutions which secure these devices in the cloud while students are at home, ensuring security and CIPA compliances are always enforced.
  • Enable the feature that requires a password in order to wake the computer after it’s asleep, to avoid an unattended Chromebook being accessed by a non-authorized user when off-campus. This may sound simple, and it’s obviously not foolproof, but it’s the first line of defense that can protect against unauthorized access.
  • Make sure only valid extensions are allowed on the Chromebooks by using Google admin tools, to ensure that only extensions from the Google Chrome Store are installed.

While these are worthwhile measures that can increase Chromebook security, having to configure them manually can be onerous. One alternative is to make use of specialized Chromebook security software. Native Chromebook extensions that provide increased and automatic cybersecurity solutions can be easily downloaded from the Chrome Web Store to bolster security.

Staying ahead of malicious attacks that threaten school networks and data is imperative for IT teams. Making it easier to deploy Chromebooks across a school district while at the same time extending security helps make this possible.

Peter Martini is the President of iBoss Cybersecurity.

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