• 7 Secure E-Learning Tips and Tricks

7 Secure E-Learning Tips and Tricks

7 Secure E-Learning Tips and Tricks

E-Learning has become the norm for many school systems throughout the United States on at least a part-time basis due to the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. Whether these distance-learning applications were in place before COVID-19 or school administrators were forced to rapidly deploy them to support emergency remote learning, there are a variety of security concerns that students and staff should be aware of when using these tools.

Here’s a list of the top 7 tips and tricks that students and teachers can use to stay safe in the virtual classroom.

Use Secure Collaboration Tools

Cybercriminals are leveraging the vulnerabilities of many popular video conferencing tools to taunt users and obtain access to personal information online.

Cisco Webex, a video conferencing and collaboration tool, has a slew of built-in security features geared towards keeping virtual classrooms secure. From locking down meeting rooms to controlling who can share their screen, the robust security feature set is simple and easy to configure.

Choose Strong Passwords

Compromised passwords accounted for 80% of all data breaches in 2019. For many school systems, user-provided passwords are the only thing protecting their applications and information from being accessed by cybercriminals. Because this is the first line of defense for safeguarding information, it’s up to you to ensure you’re selecting the strongest possible password available for your e-learning accounts.

To create a strong password, follow these steps:

  • Select a password with at least 8 characters
  • Use a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols
  • Do not recycle passwords
  • Choose separate passwords for each account
  • Use a password generator if possible

Beware of Phishing Scams

Although phishing scams have been around since the mid-’90s, cybercriminals are becoming more skilled in this popular type of online scam. A popular origination point for phishing attempts is in a user’s email inbox, where hackers will attempt to mask their identity and embed harmful links or attach documents riddled with malware.

To protect yourself from potential phishing attacks, follow these helpful steps:

  • Be wary of emails from senders you don’t recognize
  • Do not click on any links or open attachments unless you’re sure you know the sender
  • Never enter personal information into a pop-up screen
  • Alert your school’s IT administrator if you think you’ve received a phishing email

Don’t Use School Devices for Personal Use

Although most phishing attempts start via email, threat actors are using social engineering to reach new user demographics. Through the use of social media apps popular with younger generations, cyber-hackers are posing as friendly accounts to gain access to login credentials, plant malware and more.

Keeping your social media apps secluded to only your personal devices will help to thwart potential breaches to the school network.

Use VPNs When Connecting from a Home Device

When using a home device is the only option for e-learning, ask your school administrative staff about the use of a VPN for secure connectivity to school applications. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) like Cisco AnyConnect protect proprietary school data by creating an encrypted tunnel for information to pass through, from your school’s network to your home computer. Using a VPN will help to thwart potential malware from entering a school’s internal network.

Update Your Home Router Credentials

Many hackers can determine the username and password information of your home router if it’s kept as the default given by your internet service provider. Malware can be introduced if a threat actor is able to obtain access to a home router, which could then be used to infiltrate a school’s network if the use of VPNs or secure browsers is not used.

To reduce the risk of your router being targeted, the password should be updated. Your local internet provider can give you instructions on how to update your specific equipment.

Keep Anti-Virus Software Installed & Updated

Antivirus software is one of the most basic layers of protection you can add to any computer. These programs can help protect your devices against malware attacks, web browser vulnerabilities and even zero-day attacks (those that take place before a known vulnerability patch is developed).

If your school doesn’t offer antivirus software, or if you’re using a personal device to complete online assignments, there are many free versions available for download. However, be wary of the software you choose because some free variations available online are malware in disguise. If you have questions, reach out to your school’s IT administrator for help.

Final Thoughts

Navigating through the world of e-learning is stressful enough without adding the threat of cybersecurity attacks onto your plate. Following these 7 simple tips and tricks will help keep you safe during online lectures, browsing the web for homework assignments and more.

For more information about how you can stay safe online this school year, download a copy of our Cybersecurity Awareness Training Guide.

GET FREE GUIDE

Top 4 E-Learning Tools for Education

Top 4 E-Learning Tools for Education

You don’t need classrooms or campuses for collaboration – education is changing. Students are more digitally engaged than ever before. Because of this, teaching, learning, and administrative decision-making no longer have to take place in-person. Thanks to technology, educators can now collaborate seamlessly with colleagues, students and administrators through a distance-learning setup.

But how do you offer students the experiences they want and provide educators the tools they need, while ensuring that it’s done securely? Dive into Cisco’s top 4 e-learning tools for education.

Cisco Webex

The collaboration architecture within Cisco Webex provides the toolkit teachers and students need to connect seamlessly and securely. It enables learning not only to be more accessible but also more engaging. Its features are designed to drive e-learning from team collaboration to digital whiteboarding, online office hours, courses and more.

Webex offers HD audio and video capabilities that transform virtual classrooms into lifelike experiences for students and teachers. Its unique platform allows students and teachers to keep collaborating before, during and after lessons with 1:1 and group messaging, rich content and file sharing and video calls. Collaboration is simplified with features such as digital whiteboarding, co-editing and interactive polling.

If your school uses LMS solutions such as Moodle, Blackboard, Sakai, Canvas or D2L, you can integrate them directly with Webex.

Cisco DNA Spaces

Wireless internet is a crucial element for any school, whether on campus or e-learning. The issue with wireless is that it can be challenging to identify blind spots in the network. Cisco DNA Spaces provides insight and context to data you already have but couldn’t see. It gives you visibility that includes location analytics, visitor behavior trends, asset monitoring and data privacy. All of this data lives within a user-friendly, centralized dashboard.

The mobility architecture behind Cisco provides the connectivity and capacity schools need to help students move beyond traditional boundaries to learn how and where they want. That includes connecting the campus, creating mobile experiences, driving digital learning, campus wayfinding and location services.

Cisco Umbrella

Umbrella, used by hundreds of universities and schools today, provides an internet-wide layer of protection that defends against malware while preventing command and control callback of infected devices. Its defensive layers and unique approach stop all threats in their tracks.

As more K-12 schools embrace 1:1 programs, tablets and mobile devices, Cisco Umbrella enables IT administrators to extend web filtering and internet security to all devices, even after leaving campus.

Cisco’s data center architecture gives schools the control they need to manage data-whether on-premise or in a central data center, hybrid cloud, or cloud-to fuel innovative research and keep campuses secure.

Cisco Meraki

Cisco Meraki cloud-managed technology provides complete network visibility and control – no hardware controllers or overlay software required. With end-to-end network intelligence through Meraki System Manager, the Meraki dashboard, Wireless Health and Meraki Insight, schools can quickly identify network problems from the end-point to the application server.

Meraki provides the ultimate experience for both students and teachers, with a holistic view of what contributes to the end-user’s network slow-down, whether it’s the iPad, cloud application or state testing site, leading to a faster time to resolution.

Meraki’s content filtering, application control and SD-WAN capabilities on the Meraki MX security appliance reduce operational costs, simplify multi-site deployments and use bandwidth more efficiently to optimize performance for critical applications without sacrificing security or privacy.

Partner With An Expert in Education Technology

At Bridgetek Solutions, we specialize in technology solutions for education. We understand that the transition to E-learning is new territory for many institutions. In order to alleviate some of the strain, we have created an IT checklist on preparing for distance learning.

If you are looking for a smooth transition, contact us and let our experts help.

DOWNLOAD MY CHECKLIST

IT Tips for K-12 Distance Learning

IT Tips for K-12 Distance Learning

The recent transition to distance learning has not been easy for many schools. Like traditional classrooms, distance learning relies on several factors to succeed. A successful distance learning setup should incorporate these elements:

Flexibility

Adjusting to a distance learning setup may take time for students, parents and teachers. Teachers must keep this in mind when setting deadlines for homework and projects. It is highly likely that students – and parents – may need time to learn how to access information correctly.

Times are tough. Teachers must consider every student’s needs. If a student is noticeably struggling more than others, it may be time to schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss how the issue can be resolved.

Availability

When working in a distance learning setup, educators should create a frequently asked questions resource for users to access should problems arise. Teachers must make learning materials available on demand. Doing so will allow students to catch up and refer back to items at their own pace.

Teachers may also want to keep a closer eye on their emails. They will likely receive questions and time-sensitive notes. If possible, teachers should increase “office hours” to ease the transition.

Familiarity

Teachers must aim to provide the standard classroom atmosphere to their online course. This can be done by creating fun images and videos to send out to students and increasing collaboration efforts. An excellent example of this would be to create individual birthday posts or videos for students and keep a fun demeanor.

The more active the teacher appears the more students will be drawn into the online classroom structure and experience.

Collaboration

Collaboration is easily the most critical factor when working within a distance learning platform. When students are actively participating in their online courses, they can more easily understand and retain the information received. Younger students benefit significantly from collaborative learning because it fosters connections that they would receive in a physical classroom.

Teachers should consider breaking students up into groups and increasing group work as a tool to boost collaboration within the class. Group work will force students to interact with one another in ways that they may not have otherwise.

Simplicity

Keep technology simple. Tracking student progress may be difficult when distance learning. Teachers must form a routine and stick with it. Teachers should provide straightforward, simple instructions on how to use all distance learning tools and how to access online materials used throughout the course. Syllabi should also contain more detailed information on rules and regulations used while distance learning.

Teachers may also consider having a lecture purely devoted to a walkthrough of all tools to be used throughout the semester.

Security

Students, parents and teachers are vulnerable when it comes to cyber-attacks. It is essential to educate all users on cyber-security. This can be anything from how to avoid scams and suspicious websites to phishing attempts.

The sudden transition to virtual learning is unprecedented territory. To assist administrators during this time, BridgeTek has created a checklist that will help institutions prepare their teachers and students for distance learning.

DOWNLOAD MY CHECKLIST

4 IT Learning Necessities for Hybrid Learning in Classrooms

4 IT Learning Necessities for Hybrid Learning in Classrooms

As the US transitions to a hybrid learning format, educators brush up on the best ways to keep their students productive. Distance learning is different; teachers must digitize their methods and all planned lessons for students to access while at home.

When working in a hybrid learning setup, IT admin should enact these 4 necessary practices.

1. Analyze the possible issues with hybrid learning setups

IT admins should consider how students connect with their teachers. They must cover all the potential problems that may arise when shifting to a hybrid learning setup. What if there is an internet issue? What if students don’t have access to a computer? Could there be complications with IEPs?

It is essential to consider the physical materials that will be beneficial to your students. In a hybrid learning environment, resources such as textbooks, workbooks, manipulatives and additional reading materials may need to be digitized.

2. Set up appropriate security measures

Security is the top priority when shifting to a hybrid learning setup. The recent boost in online learning and working from home has caused an uprise in cyberattacks. To secure their students’ information, IT admins should search for a solution that creates a safe and secure learning environment by blocking all possible cyberthreats that try to access its network.

Creating strict identity and access control rules should also be a priority for IT admins. For example, while teachers and superintendents are essential to an education system, they do not require access to the same information. Digital learning solutions must be able to protect data, research and intellectual property by providing access only to those who are authorized.

3. Implement a communication solution

Communication and collaboration are the backbones of successful hybrid learning setups. IT admin should look for a solution that allows users to chat, call and share documents, such as Cisco Webex. If you already use communication tools with students or an LMS, keep using them and make sure all users are comfortable working with them. Otherwise, finding a solution that is both functional for education and can promote communication and collaboration should be top priority.

4. Create a feedback inquiry

Setting up a discussion space for feedback is essential when moving to a hybrid learning setup. IT teams must be transparent about their expectations for critical feedback. Students and parents should receive emails educating them on how to give feedback to one another, especially in a virtual space.

One great way to collect feedback is to create a survey for all users to submit after using the hybrid learning setup.

When hybrid learning, it is likely that students will get discouraged when they can’t ask teachers or their peers for help. It is important to set reminders for teachers to send out encouraging messages to their students, encouraging them to ask questions and take surveys regarding the use of their hybrid learning setup.

For more information on how to prepare your school for hybrid learning, download our checklist on preparing for distance learning.

DOWNLOAD MY CHECKLIST

5 Best Practices in IT Security for Schools

5 Best Practices in IT Security for Schools

The rise in technological advancements relative to education and learning has created the need for many school systems to adopt a hybrid in-school/e-learning environment. While the benefits of e-learning are aplenty, the use of new technology as a teaching aid brings forth a set of security vulnerabilities that can quickly cripple a school if not managed properly.

School systems, particularly K-12, present threat actors and cybercriminals a virtual breeding ground of targets. The vast majority of users are younger and less informed about cybersecurity best practices, which opens up the possibility for hackers to gain access to their data.

To kick off the new school year, here is a list of the 5 best practices education leaders and school IT staff can implement to keep their students and staff safe from the nefarious activity on the web.

Network Segmentation

The use of mobile devices among school-aged children is on the rise. Some studies have shown that 69% of children have their own smartphone by the time they’re 12 years old, meaning that the number of devices being brought into schools and connecting to WiFi is vastly on the rise.

Students connecting to social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more creates a major network vulnerability if they are using the school’s WiFi network to access these apps. Cybersecurity threat actors are using social engineering in more creative ways to infiltrate networks, spread malware, and obtain access to personally identifiable information.

A hacker can easily gain access to an entire network through a student or staff member’s social media account and wreak havoc if network segmentation is not put into place. Creating a disparate network for guest access and another for critical school applications will help safeguard any private information from being accessed through personal devices.

Use VPNs for Offsite Learning

When in-school learning is not an option, school IT staff needs a way to allow students to access important information without compromising network security. More often than not, students are using home WiFi networks to access e-learning materials instead of encrypted, secure hotspots. While home WiFi may be more secure than going over the public internet, cybercriminals can still find ways to access school data through a home router.

Implementing a secure, encrypted VPN like Cisco AnyConnect allows students to access the materials they need without accidentally inviting threat actors into the school network. This secure VPN optimizes security with features like Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) and identity verification, so you can rest assured knowing that only those with valid credentials can sign in.

Spam Filters and Anti-Phishing Software

Phishing scams are the leading cause of security breaches in the U.S and statistics show that phishing attempts are on the rise. This type of attack leverages social engineering through a user’s email inbox to access information like application credentials, account information, and more.

Applications like spam filters and anti-phishing software add a backend layer of protection against phishing scams, using artificial intelligence to capture and remove threats before they even reach a student’s inbox. Cisco Email Security uses data loss prevention (DLP) policies to help protect critical information from being accessed through email – both inbound and outbound.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Cybersecurity tools only work if those using them understand why they’ve been put in place. Students and staff that don’t understand the potential danger waiting for them on the web can be just as dangerous as not having any protective measures in place at all.

Creating campaigns that continuously touch on the importance of practicing cybersecurity will help boost the success of the tools put in place. Types of training could include email security, the need for password management, how to browse the web securely, and more.

Password Management Policies

Microsoft recently released statistics that indicated over 44 million records were accessed in 2019 due to passwords that were too weak. The need for strong passwords in school systems becomes even more prevalent due to the amount of personally identifiable information being kept on the network.

Using a password management policy through your school system’s Active Directory infrastructure, or simply putting together a written policy within the student/staff code of conduct allows IT staff to control the strength of the passwords being used to access a school’s network. These policies can also act as a user management solution, restricting access to certain aspects of the network to only those that truly need it.

Conclusion

Maintaining a high level of security within a school network does not have to be a daunting task. Many things can be implemented to ensure a high level of safety across the network, and the above 5 best practices are a great starting point.

Do you have questions about the security of your school’s network? Download our IT Security Guide today to learn more.

GET MY FREE GUIDE