Just a few short years ago, Apple was the undisputed king of tech in schools. If you didn’t have iPads in your classroom, you were planning to get them soon. But today the momentum has shifted dramatically. Google’s Chromebook has almost completely replaced Apple’s iconic tablet as the first choice for classroom-tech initiatives.
Chromebooks are in many ways ideal for classrooms, allowing teachers to leverage online resources to provide richer, more differentiated educational experiences to your students. In addition, Chromebooks have multiple, substantial layers of built-in security, providing peace of mind regarding certain types of cyber threats.
To improve on that security, school IT probably also use a secure web gateway appliance and a firewall to protect students and staff from web-borne threats. Depending on the solutions the school or district has chosen to install, this is effective—as long as the devices are connected to the school network.
A Worrying Security Gap
Unfortunately, one fast-growing security gap that has largely been neglected is the one that opens up when your students take school-owned Chromebooks off-campus. Whether at home or over a public Wi-Fi connection, learners are exposed to risk when they connect to the internet And when students are exposed to risk, so are schools, reputations and careers.
Possible Risks with Off-Campus Chromebooks
Possible risks associated with off-campus Chromebook use include:
1. CIPA Compliance
The basic requirement of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is to monitor minors’ online content and behavior, and protect them from online dangers and inappropriate or illegal content. If teachers and IT are only monitoring and protecting students during part of the time that they are using Chromebooks—only when they are at school, but not when they go home or to the coffee shop—then schools and districts may not be in compliance with CIPA. A single incident could lead to a great deal of cost and trouble.
Cyberbullying takes many forms and uses many platforms and media, but it continues to increase, and it continues to cause devastating psychological damage among young people.
There are solutions that educators and staff to monitor and control social media traffic while students are on the network, scanning for keywords so that you teachers can be alerted and intervene before things get out of hand. However, schools must also be able to protect students from this very serious threat whenever and wherever they use the devices issued to them. Using a security product that lets educators block access to social-media sites whenever and wherever school-issued Chromebooks are connected to the internet can make a real difference in protecting the community’s children from cyberbullying.
3. Cyber Threats
When students go online through a public Wi-Fi network, they are taking security chances provided by the host. If the host security is inadequate, learners can all too easily access malicious websites or open phishing emails that can deliver malware. The next day, at school, students can be unwitting vectors of an attack that ends up affecting the school’s entire network, or endangering critical or confidential data. Today’s most common malware attacks use ransomware, which can disrupt operations and cost schools a good deal of money. Be sure that you’re able to extend protection against these attacks whenever your Chromebooks go online, whether on-campus or off.
(Next page: Chromebook safety solutions)