Study: Edtech Needs to Be More Secure Than It Is

March 1, 2017

4:30 pm

Ed tech — the software, hardware, and integrated systems that are increasingly powering every level of education — has sprung up quickly around the world. The industry is getting crowded enough that we were able to cover a top 12 list of the highest funded ed tech startups in New York alone.

But any rapid growth is plagued with challenges. One of the biggest, second only to thinning educational budgets, is security. Here’s Larry Johnson, CEO of New Media Consortium, in a 2015 statement on the issue:

“If we don’t solve the concerns that people have about big data and privacy of students, we’re going to miss a huge opportunity.”

Has the security problem been resolved in the years since this statement? A new survey doesn’t look great.

Only 52 Percent of Vendor Websites Encrypt Their Data

Common Sense Education’s Privacy Evaluation Institute surveyed more than 1,000 ed tech vendors. The results:

“Only 52 percent of the vendor websites require encryption of login and personal information. The rest of the sites surveyed either don’t require encryption (20 percent) or aren’t built to support it (25 percent)”

Like Fintech, ed tech requires large databases for its network of clients, making it a potential target for hackers. In order to stay safe, educators should reexamine their deals with ed tech providers to ensure their information is protected properly.

Educators Should Encourage Diligence

When some ed tech vendors can’t be trusted, the security is best enacted on the teachers’ side.

“The big challenge is the education of adults, teachers and administrators, so that they’re aware of laws and best practices,” Craig Bates, coordinator of instructional technology at Talladega County (Ala.) Schools, told Ed Tech Magazine. “You can put policies in place, but there’s no software or other tool that can enforce them. Education is the best defense because that’s what can lead to everyone being diligent.”

It appears that being educated on the best security practices already is now the best way to further educate your students.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe