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5 tips to prevent student hackers from accessing school computer systems

Student hackers

“Greenwich University suffers second data breach this year in apparent ‘revenge hack’ by former student” – Independent

“British teenager hacks North Korea’s newly-launched Facebook site after guessing the login and password were set to ‘admin’ and ‘password’” – Daily Mail

“Europe’s youngest app designer expelled after hacking school computer system” – The Telegraph

Technology advances have made learning easier and students are increasingly tech-savvy.  However, the down side is that there has been a dramatic rise in unethical activities. Protecting school computer systems from student hackers is now an urgent priority.

A recent article in The Guardian highlighted that many students’ internet understanding and online abilities are now way beyond those of their teachers. As a result, it can be a nightmare for schools to deal with students who hack into databases, steal staff passwords and access secure sections of school websites.

Research by Probrand revealed that “how to hack the school computer” has been searched for more than 2,100 times in the UK. Astonishingly, this is monthly! So, why do students indulge in such practices? The reasons can be varied – to retaliate for punishment, to change their grades, improve their attendance, for peer respect or just for fun.

Commenting on school systems being hacked, Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for cybercrime, stated that school computer systems are vulnerable to unauthorised access. “Schools are just not aware of all the ways they can be attacked.”

How can schools ensure safety from student hackers?

1. Usernames and passwords

The most important way to prevent unauthorised access is to review your user list, check who has permission to access what kind of content, and give each student and staff member a unique login id and password. This will provide you with an audit trail to follow in case of a hacking incident. A generic login id makes it difficult to find.

Encourage your staff to use strong passwords and change them frequently. Likewise, have a separate password for confidential data. After all, no school would want a repeat of the Bay House School incident.

2. Creating separate networks

Separating the student network from the staff network makes it harder for students to access sensitive information. Staff must be warned about sharing their passwords with students, or anyone else for that matter, because hackers can access passwords in the simplest ways.

3. Prepare copies of grades

Students feel the pressure of getting good grades and therefore the idea of hacking into the school system can be tempting. Teachers can prepare separate copies of grades by downloading or printing the grades every time a test is taken or an assignment is submitted. This kind of back-up can be a good recovery process in case of a hacking event.

4. Encourage open communication and set ground rules

Encourage open communication between students and staff members so that everyone knows what measures need to be taken to prevent hacking. Similarly, ground rules must be set highlighting acceptable behaviour when using school computers. Students should also be made aware about the rules and consequences for hacking or not adhering to the school’s policy.

5. Teach students to be digitally responsible

With the help of Internet safety lessons, students can be educated about taking responsibility for their online activities. Teachers should teach students to practice appropriate online behaviour while exploring the Internet for learning resources. Help them understand that their online activities don’t occur in a vacuum, and there might be consequences. This has the potential to make them digitally responsible.

Student hacking cannot be entirely prevented. However, schools can prevent most of it. Whilst applying the above measures is a good start, schools need to implement cyber safety measures to avoid more than just student hackers. This is where Securus steps in. Get in touch with us today to safeguard both pupils and your school systems.

Mark Kingham
Mark Kingham

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