June is Internet Safety Month! As society continues to skyrocket into a more digital age, cyber criminals (aka hackers) continue to find new ways to access personal information such as social security numbers, credit card information, and bank account details. When hackers get their hands on this data, it can cause you a lot of financial trouble and result in irreversible damage to you, your district, or your students.
Recent data breaches have taken place at districts throughout the southern region, resulting in PII from students getting stolen.
What is PII data?
PII stands for “Personally Identifiable Information” – in other words, any data that could potentially identify a specific individual.
Protecting PII is essential for personal privacy, data privacy, data protection, information privacy, and information security. (Source)
How You Can Protect Your Data
Below is a checklist of simple steps to help you avoid data breaches and protect student PII.
Be Wary About What You Download
As things are constantly changing and policies are updating, you are going to be searching for more information to help you navigate through the changes. Cyber criminals are likely to set up false sites that appear reliable so that instead of downloading the information you need, you end up downloading malware – software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network or steal information. Only download files from trusted websites. If you are unsure if a web page is trustworthy, navigate through the entire site and make sure nothing seems out of the ordinary (excessive typos, several ads, multiple pop-ups, etc.) If you are still unsure, ask a friend or colleague if they have visited the site themselves and see if they were able to download items without any repercussions or consequences.
Choose Strong Passwords and Use A Password Management System
Choosing a password might seem like a simple task, but choosing a strong password can be a little more complex. For example:
Weak Password: password123
Strong Password: P@$$w0rd!23
Of course, avoid using the word “password” as your password. Try and think of a term that is significant only to you, but can’t be learned by a hacker. So using the names of family members or pets isn’t recommended if you are sharing those names on social media platforms. Many web browsers now offer “suggested” passwords so that you don’t have to think of one yourself. It will generate a series of letters that are so random that it would be impossible for anyone to guess it. However, because these types of suggested passwords are random, it can be hard for you to remember. Using a password management system can help with this, and the right ones can tell you if your existing passwords are weak or compromised. Check out this list for the 2021 top picks of password management systems from PCMag.com for some suggestions!
Ensure Your Internet Connection Is Secure
The internet in your district is most likely going to be the most secure connection you will have access to. With that being said, your district network should be the only network where you handle student information. Avoid using public internet connections such as Starbucks or Internet Cafes. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) outside of the office enables you to have a secure connection between your device and an Internet server that no one can monitor or access the data that you’re exchanging.
Only Input Information on Secure Sites
Online sales drastically increased in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down storefronts globally. This means more personal information is getting submitted through the cloud, leading to an increased risk in your information getting compromised. As you enter your information on different websites, be careful about what it is you share. For example, if you are requesting access to a free webinar, you shouldn’t be asked to input information such as your street address or social security number, and if you are – leave the website immediately. If you are online shopping and need to input private information such as credit card details and billing information, make sure the site is secure. You can do this by checking the site address at the top of your browser. A secure site will begin with “HTTPS” versus “HTTP”. The “S” stands for secure. If your browser doesn’t reflect either of these in the site address, many of them will provide you with a padlock to the left of the address notifying you if the site is secure or not. For example, primeroedge.com is a secure site as noted by the padlock.
Download and Frequently Update an Antivirus Program
If you are unsure if you have an antivirus program at work, check with your IT department. Even outside of work, it’s important to ensure you have similar programs installed on your private devices. (Note: smartphones typically have malware protection built-in so you don’t need to worry about downloading third-party apps here.) These programs can help identify any viruses that may be on your computer and squash them as soon as possible. However, these can only work effectively if you keep them up to date. These are great to have on hand to give you peace of mind and help you navigate the internet more securely.
Update and Monitor Your Privacy Settings
Many websites that require you to log in will come with customizable privacy settings. However, many of these settings can be difficult to find as changing specific settings can hurt marketers. More importantly, they hurt hackers so you need to make sure these are updated to your liking. Take some time to navigate through your personal account and find these settings and update them how you would like. A good example of this is deciding if you would like ads catered to you. You can either agree to let a website track your browsing history (cookies) so that you can get ads you actually want to see, or you can opt-out and get ads about anything under the sun. As security measures are constantly getting enhanced, you want to make sure that you are checking in on these settings to see what new settings are available for modification and avoid your choices returning to any default settings that you may not agree with.
How PrimeroEdge Keeps You Safe
Security considerations are the foremost part of any organization. PrimeroEdge uses several services and tools to achieve the highest security standards using the required industry standards as a basis. PrimeroEdge also addresses the various dependencies, alerts, and recovery plans, in case of system interruptions. To learn more about our security infrastructure, data security, and user access roles, schedule a call with one of our solution experts.
Alex Szoeke has served as a Marketing Specialist at PrimeroEdge for over 2 years. She has previously worked in the foodservice industry as both a server and supervisor, having earned her ServSafe Managers Certification in 2015. She received her bachelor's degree in Corporate Communications from the University of Houston and later completed a 6-month Full Stack Web Development Bootcamp through the University of Texas.