We are all familiar with headlines proclaiming the latest data breach and I am among those that have had their identity stolen in the form of credit card fraud. Saint Peter Public Schools, along with educational institutions across the country, are turning their attention to the everchanging cyber-security landscape. We work hard to safeguard the information and data we have been trusted with and to educate our staff and students so they can be be well informed of the risks they face when going online.

Staying ahead of the bad guys on the internet is a constantly evolving game of cat and mouse. The number of threats and the complex nature of vulnerabilities seems to increase every day, making cybersecurity a difficult challenge for schools and many other government agencies to tackle. It is simply too expensive and complex for the school to hire a full-time security engineer so we have put other processes in place to safeguard data. Most of the data kept about students, staff, and family are hosted by vendors (who employ teams of security engineers) after going through a data audit process before we contract with them. This allows us to safeguard the data in a responsible and cost-effective way.

Effective cyber-security also includes a significant amount of education. Having your data stored securely is only a part of the full cyber-security picture. We take steps to educate our staff and students to carefully examine all emails, use strong passwords, and take steps to prevent their credentials from being compromised. This school year we have seen (as I am sure you have, too) a noticeable increase in sophisticated phishing and email impersonation campaigns. Spotting the difference between legitimate and phishing emails can be very difficult and effective education is the only way to combat these threats. Moving forward, we are going to increase the educational focus on students for cyber-security because they will be experiencing the same threats as the adults as they grow up and utilize more services and platforms online.

The internet and online learning platforms hold the potential to transform education and our classrooms in ways I never dreamed of growing up. It is an exciting time to be a teacher and a student because of the many new and exciting opportunities that technology brings us. We continue to commit ourselves to using every tool at our disposal to give your child the best education possible. With this comes the responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for that education, something we are equally committed to.

Chris Ovrebo is Director of Technology for St. Peter Public Schools.

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