Guest blog by Phuong Nguyen SHI Public Information Officer
Due to the number and severity of cyber attacks on school systems, there is increasing concern among school leaders about the techniques used by hackers and other cyber criminals to access sensitive information, commit thefts and to perform denial of service attacks.
One area of considerable interest involves the amount of information that can sometimes be accessed by hacking into smart phones and how easy it can sometimes be to breach the security of these devices. For example, in many school districts and non-public schools today, authorized employees can remotely view live feed from security cameras, can turn major systems like freezers in a cafeteria and alarm systems on and off. In many school organizations, authorized employees can quickly access sensitive student records from a portable device.
In polling a number of school safety officials, we have found that most of them have not installed any protective software on their employees’ smart phones, including those that can be used to access these types of systems. According to cyber security experts, with available tools, hackers just need to be within the wireless coverage range of those mobile devices to compromise them. For example, as many people often use the unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots available in public places, such as airports, hackers just need to be in those places to accomplish their malicious work. If password information has been stored on a phone that is used to access these systems and appropriate protective software is not in use, a hacker may be able to access anything that the legitimate user can.
We suggest that school organizations that utilize these types of systems consider protection of these mobile devices by installing appropriate antivirus software, developing appropriate use policies as they would for desktop computers, and providing proper staff development sessions for those who have access to these systems via portable device. As the recent successful hacking of a conference call between FBI officials and Scotland Yard investigators demonstrate, there are people who can and will hack telephone calls.
School cyber security is a rapidly evolving and often vulnerable area. Taking reasonable steps to protect these sensitive systems and information should be a consideration.
Phuong Nguyen serves as the Public Information Officer for Safe Havens International and is working on a dual Cyber Security/MBA MS degree program. Phuong has an MA in Applied Linguistics from Vietnam National University and an MA in Mass Communications from Texas Tech University.