Education & Government
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Jill Holtz
Content Strategy Manager

How school boards can mitigate the risk of sensitive data exposure

August 1, 2023
0 min read
How school boards can mitigate the risk of sensitive data exposure

The media is continually flooded with stories about data breaches and hacks against school districts and community colleges. For members of school and college boards, the responsibility of maintaining sensitive district and student information can weigh heavy.

School and college boards are accountable for ensuring that information related to students, school districts or community colleges is protected from accidental or intentional sensitive data exposure.

Sensitive data exposure

Personal information, large financial transactions, and other confidential and sensitive information can make school districts and community colleges lucrative targets for sensitive data exposure.

School systems are susceptible to bad cybersecurity practices that can put student and school information at great risk.

Local school and college boards are also just as prone to sensitive data exposure. Board members need to be proactive to mitigate the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

Bad cybersecurity practices that increase the risk of sensitive data exposure

Unfortunately, bad cybersecurity practices can increase the risk of sensitive data exposure. Make sure your board members are following best practices for cybersecurity, and that everyone involved with decision-making for your school district or college is on top of these key areas that could result in data exposure:

Not having a solid defense for your sensitive data

Shifting from an offense mentality to a prevention mentality can create a culture that values and pursues solutions for diminishing risks of sensitive data exposure.

Setting aside the funds for cybersecurity, establishing more robust policies, and training employees and board members in cybersecurity practices can all help to mitigate cyber risks.

Maintaining data in 'the cloud'

Storage in a public cloud (like Google) can increase the risk of sensitive data exposure. When it comes to sensitive information the data should be stored on a private server and on sites with high-level encryption (256-bit encryption is the strongest level of security currently available).

The cloud puts non-public information at risk of being viewed by outside individuals or organizations. These breaches in data can be unintentional; however, they can also be the result of weaknesses in applications used to access the cloud, or other ineffective cybersecurity procedures.

Not having a recovery plan for sensitive data

Having a backup system in place to restore full performance and function in the event of sensitive data exposure or loss is a critical component of mitigating risk.

Data loss may seem simple or harmless compared to sensitive data exposure, but data loss can be just as devastating and overwhelming.

Sharing documents

Sharing and accessing documents and materials digitally is far more secure than creating and maintaining physical copies. If someone attaches or downloads a digital document, there is some digital trace of that information and the digital transaction.

If your school board passes around a hard copy of sensitive data to each board member and someone takes that hard copy home with them, the potential scenarios of how the information could be exposed is limitless; and, more importantly, that information is then untrackable.

Sensitive data exposure is fairly easy when there are physical copies of information that may have been left and forgotten in a public setting. It does not take a skilled hacker or cybercriminal for someone to swipe a hard copy of a sensitive document off of a desk.

Even downloading and maintaining documents on a hard drive can open up the school board to sensitive data exposure. Files on the hard drive of any device are still susceptible to malicious hackers who can infiltrate the device's system.

Using e-mail for board business

E-mail is technically 'digital communication,' but it is the least effective and secure form of digital communication for school boards.

E-mails and attachments are not encrypted or completely secure. Additionally, e-mail communication between school board members regarding board work can be a violation of Open Meeting Laws, so it is imperative board members tread lightly when it comes to e-mail communication.

Board management software reduces risk of sensitive data exposure

Leveraging board management software helps school and college boards mitigate the risks for sensitive data exposure or loss.

When school boards are utilizing board management software, it is imperative that they look at the features and capabilities of the software in terms of securing sensitive data. The software should promote and support strong cybersecurity practices to protect sensitive data related to the public school district (or community college) and its students.

Diligent Community’s security and features support cybersecurity procedures that protect the sensitive information of your district and your students. Maintaining secure and encrypted digital records, strong recovery methods, and a secure cloud network encourage a culture of strong cybersecurity practices.

Everyone should care about good cybersecurity, and boards should expect no less in their technology partners. Diligent understands the concerns board members have around protecting their data, and Diligent Community is built to encrypt and secure school and college board business against cyber risks.


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