Tips for protecting mobile devices and laptops in schools.
GUEST COLUMN | by Ward Clapham
As another school day ends across the country and the halls fill with students, most will be carrying iPads and other mobile devices home with them. Gone are the days of textbooks and pencils. Instead, with the support of federal subsidies like 1:1 programs, today most students are learning from tablets and laptops.
Managing and securing these devices — and safeguarding the students that use them — has become the chief concern for Education IT. Many children aren’t used to carrying around expensive technology and often leave it unattended on their desks or in the playground making it an easy target for theft. So it’s no surprise that public schools are the top location for device thefts in the U.S. as noted in the Absolute Endpoint Security Report.
But the new challenges introduced by hi-tech teaching can also be countered with technology. On the market today there are persistent (cannot be uninstalled) solutions to track, manage and secure desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. If one of these protected devices is stolen, they can be tracked and recovered. And if sensitive or personal student data is on the device, it can be retrieved or wiped clean to protect it from unauthorized access. Most importantly, access to a device post-theft can support a police investigation and ultimately lead to the identification and potential arrest of the criminal(s).
The latest IT technology allows schools to manage and protect iPads and other tablet devices from theft, including programs for loss prevention and theft investigation. One component of the theft prevention service involves on-site training for teachers and students, conducted by security specialists. The training focuses on proper use and safety of mobile devices. For example, if a student is approached by a thief, they should willingly give up the devices with no resistance. There have been far too many news stories about innocent children being hurt or killed for their mobile device. In the event a device is stolen, the service kicks in immediately, an investigation begins, and proven investigative techniques are used to assist police in the recovery of the device.
Tips for Protecting Mobile Devices in Schools:
- Lock classroom doors and windows if unoccupied (entry-proof doors are preferable)
- Have a safe place to store devices when not in use
- Install on-premise security such as burglar alarms and cameras, especially in areas where devices are stored
- Promote device safety and school security within the school grounds including posters, stickers, and other visual reminders (thieves prefer easy pickings)
- Mark all devices with identity tags to facilitate the easy return of found devices
- Promote ongoing discussions with students and staff about theft prevention
- Install endpoint management and security solutions on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones to persistently track, manage and secure these devices
Tips for Protecting Mobile Devices at Home:
- Use tablets in public areas of the home (tip for parents to monitor internet use, time spent on devices, etc.)
- Educate regularly on topics such as responsible online behavior, particularly with it comes to social networking and cyberbullying
- When carrying devices home, make sure they are not visible to the general public to deter theft or robbery. Wearing headphones is a dead giveaway.
- Do not leave devices in cars (if you must, put them in the trunk before you arrive at your destination)
- Do not leave devices unattended in any public location (library, cafe, etc.) or out of your physical contact if kept in a backpack
- Invest in a persistent (cannot be uninstalled) consumer theft recovery solution for personal devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In the event a protected device is stolen, an investigation is more likely to succeed if access to the device is supported by this type of technology.
Hi-tech teaching is here to stay in today’s classrooms and with proper planning and the right security technology in place, students can reap the educational benefits of these devices and stay safe.
Ward Clapham is VP of Investigation and Recovery Services, leading the Absolute Investigation and Recovery Services team helping organizations of all sizes, as well as consumers, to reunite with their stolen devices. He and his team have successfully tracked and recovered over 29,000 mobile devices in more than 100 countries. Prior to joining Absolute Software, Ward, a 28-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was the Superintendent in charge of the Richmond, BC Detachment.
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