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5 tips to prevent student hackers from accessing school computer systems

Student hackers
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

“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.

How can schools prevent and respond to race and faith targeted bullying?

Race and faith targeted bullying
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

We focus so much of our time and effort on teaching our children to respect their roots, their heritage, their lineage or their faith. However, when they become victims of bullying related to race and faith, you often find yourself wondering how to help your child not to feel left out or bullied because of the way they look, their culture or their nationality.

As teachers and parents, it is natural to become increasingly concerned about rising levels of bullying incidents. To help combat this, the Anti-Bullying Alliance has suggested some key actions that schools can take, both to prevent and respond to race and faith targeted bullying.

  • Send out an email to all students and parents to remind them of the school ethos and values and remind them too, that the school challenges all forms of bullying and abuse. That email must stress that any reports of racist behaviour will be taken seriously even via social media platforms.
  • Ensure that your anti-bullying policy and cyber safety policies include race and faith targeted bullying This can be posted on your school website so that it is readily available to all members of the school community.
  • Encourage students to be vigilant about bullying, prejudice and abuse, and to report any concerns.
  • During tutor time, in assemblies and through the curriculum, take time to ensure that all students feel that they are all equally cherished, respected and valued. Reassure them that if they have any worries about bullying or abuse, they can speak to teachers and support staff.
  • All members of the school community should be informed that any offensive language or comments will be strictly dealt with.
  • If you are unsure how to handle such situations, then it is important that your school seeks advice. Here are some organisations that may be able to offer additional support: ChildLineSupports, Tell MAMA,, org and victimsupport.

Choosing a resource or activity that can help prevent race and faith targeted bullying

You can have a policy to tackle issues relating to bullying, but when it comes to bullying related to race and faith, it can get a bit sensitive. Follow these steps:

  • Ensure that you familiarise yourself with the resource. For instance, if it is a film related to bullying, watch it all the way through.
  • Consider whether the resource may provoke strong reactions in students or if it could lead to conflict. If it does, how will you manage? Also, understand whether you might need additional support either prior to using the resource, during or after the session.
  • Check whether the resource is suitable for the age group.
  • Encourage students to talk to you if they feel uncomfortable during any of the sessions, because bullying related to race and faith need to be tackled delicately.

Not all incidents of bullying due to race, faith and culture need legal intervention. Your first approach should always be to talk openly with your child’s school. Also, don’t forget to ask:

Is your school protected?

A cyber safety solution is an ideal way to secure your school’s networks. Securus is designed to protect pupils and staff on the curriculum network by way of alerting the schools safeguarding team of inappropriate and potentially harmful behaviour.

e-Safety – the balance between filtering and monitoring

Filtering and monitoring
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

As schools continue to reap the benefits of technology in the classroom they are also required to have reliable and robust filtering and monitoring systems in place. Some educational establishments have concerns about how they will implement e-Safety, especially as the government has recently made it mandatory. However, this needn’t be a difficult task to achieve. Here we outline what you need to know about filtering and monitoring.

Filtering and monitoring content – what is the difference?

A Filter is a piece of software that prevents illegal and inappropriate content from being accessed, and makes sure that children use the internet for the right purposes only. Modern filters are quite sophisticated and can successfully block dubious sites from passing through. There is a catch here though. A filter could end up blocking perfectly acceptable sites, if it comes across particular words that have been identified as objectionable.  Administrators can remove blocked sites from a filter’s blacklist, but it is a rather tedious and time consuming process.

With only a filtering system in place, students can be prevented from accessing certain sites, but the attempt to visit them would go largely unreported. The only way to keep track would be to manually check the browsing history of each student, which is not a practical method.

Monitoring, on the other hand is more of a reporting strategy – it tracks browsing activities of the students and records details of any inappropriate access on any part of the school network.  Monitoring ensures that pupils use the Internet for the purpose they are supposed to, as well as gaining deeper insights into their topics of study and remaining in touch with their teachers to discuss assignments. Therefore, monitoring will not prevent access but will alert the authorities about an attempt to access inappropriate sites. This helps schools keep an eye on any potential misuse of the Internet and deters students from using the school network for anything that isn’t relevant to their studies.

Why a combination of filtering and monitoring works best for schools

e-Safety aims to safeguard the privacy and wellbeing of pupils while they use technology in school, at the same time giving them enough freedom to benefit from it. The best way to achieve this is by using a combination of filtering and monitoring. Both methods can work together to block inappropriate sites and report any attempts to access them.

Securus has been instrumental in safeguarding young people online in the UK.  Our software effectively tracks all online activity and reports any violations of a school’s Acceptable Use Policy.  Since 2002, Securus has helped more than 3,500 educational establishments provide their pupils with the use of a secure and reliable network that allows them to enjoy the advantages of staying connected with the online world, without compromising their safety.

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