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Securing Your Home Networks for Education Online

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, educators and students have now moved to home-based online learning opportunities. We thought it would be timely to provide teachers with a short safety and security checklist. This list will help protect home networks, educators, students, and the school district that you are employed by:

If using a personal or school district’s computer, make sure all security and malware protection has been updated.

Where offered, implement two-factor authentication (1)—especially when it comes to signing into work accounts, social networks, or conferencing platforms.

If you are using a school-issued computer (or even a personal computer) in your home, make sure that it is password protected and secured when not in use. If for some reason you are not home and someone breaks in and steals the computer, you want to make sure that you did your due diligence to keep private information (such as student names) protected.

Make sure that you have secured your home router (2,8).

Make sure you update all your passwords, and make sure you use a strong password. Here’s how to create a strong password:

  • Pick a phrase that you will remember and has at least six letters: “the white hatter”

  • Capitalize the first letter in each word of the phrase: “The White Hatter”

  • Now take the entire phrase and shrink it so that it is just one big word: “TheWhiteHatter”

  • Now replace any letter “e” with the number “3” and any letter “a” with the “@” symbol so that it now looks like this: “Th3Whit3H@tt3r”

  • Now add an “!” to the end so that it now looks like this: “Th3Whit3H@tt3r!”

To check the strength and security of your password (3)

Do not save your passwords on your note’s app or a Word document. Think about using a password locker. The one we use is LastPass. (4)

Before you click any link sent to you via email or text, think before you do so. The vector into your device for many hackers is via malware that is embedded in an infected email or other messages. This is another reason why you want to ensure you have updated your devices for virus and malware protection.

Ensure that while using whatever video conferencing platform you have chosen you are following their best practices specific to security and privacy. As an example, the video conferencing platform Zoom, which has become very popular over the past couple of weeks, has experienced something that has now been termed “Zoom-bombing.”(5) So, for those using Zoom, here are 4 basic tips to make it more secure:

  • Disable “Join Before Host” function

  • Enable “Co-host” to assign extra moderators function

  • Disable “File Transfer” to stop digital virus sharing

  • Disable “Allow Removed Participants to Rejoin” function

Here’s a great link from the University of Maryland that provides a more detailed process to ensure that you are conducting a safer, more secure and private Zoom session. (6) Also, for those educators who will be using a conferencing platform for online classes, DO NOT take screenshots of your class participants and post them on your personal social media feeds like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Depending upon your province, state, or country you could be breaching privacy law and school district policy. Students should also be advised that they too should not take screenshots and post them online.

  • Make sure you log out of any social media platform or conferencing software once you have finished.

  • Think about purchasing cyber insurance should something go wrong. (7)

Unfortunately, there may be some students who will want to send you things like viruses and other malware or take screenshots and use them as a weapon against you. This is why it is so important that no matter what happens during your online educational session, you need to understand that everything you do online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, and exploitable even when in a closed/private conferencing session.

The White Hatter Team