Keeping technology secure ahead of Online Learning Day – Digital Journal


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A teacher using laptop as part of a workshop for school children. Image by Astrid Lomholt. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Many school districts across the U.S. have pivoted back to virtual or hybrid learning due to the rise of COVID-19 cases. In 2020, the Unisys Security Index revealed that only 31 percent of U.S. citizens with children expressed serious concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s education. This perhaps suggests a tendency among some that may have had a false sense of security while learning, working and shopping from home.

An updated study from Unisys has revealed that children who are online learning is not the only thing that puts technology at risk to cybersecurity risks. The issues extend to the adult population as well. Here, only 50 percent of employees reported following all organizational security practices when working remotely.

In advance of the U.S. National Online Learning Day (marked on September 15, 2021) Mathew Newfield, who is the Chief Information Security Officer of Unisys, provides some guidance for Digital Journal readers in terms of how to keep technology secure while online learning or working.

According to Newfield, some things families can do to stay safe online include:

Software support

Newfield says: “Look for software support. If a parent is unable to fully supervise a child while they’re doing schoolwork, there is “nanny software” that people can invest in that helps monitor what their families are doing. This software can be used as a lesson to teach kids what websites are or are not appropriate as well as provide a regular report on a child’s online activity.”

Divide work and play

Newfield advises people to “Separate work from play. When using laptops, tablets, and phones, if you are able to get and provide your child with a personal computer that’s not given by the school, one of the first things you need to explain as a parent is that this is your work system. This is not your play system, and you need to use it for school only.”

Discuss cybersecurity risks

To promote best practices, Newfield advises: “Talk to your children about cyber safety. It’s important to build trust so that if your child is concerned about something they see on the internet, they can ask you without fear of reprisal. Help them understand the dangers that can come with being on the web, and don’t be afraid to ask them if they’ve come across anything out of the ordinary online.”

Be suspicious about links

To avoid clicking on malicious websites, Newfield recommends that people verify all hyperlinks. He explains; “If you have doubts, look at the domain in the URL and use online search engines to verify it independently. Before clicking links that are sent to you, hover over the link with your mouse arrow and ensure it is taking you to the intended website.”

Protect hardware

To secure hardware Newfield recommends: “Make sure you are protecting your Wi-Fi network and devices around the house by patching and updating to the latest firmware and checking the brand and model for security risks. It is also important to change default passwords and use passwords of significant strength (greater than eight characters with three of the following four (upper case, lower case, number, special character). Do not use words or deviations of words as passwords.”

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news.
Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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