School ICT security tips

ICT security and charging specialist LapSafe Products® introduced the first ever laptop storage and charging trolley into the UK in 2000 and has been the market leader ever since. To date, the company has sold over 17,000 mobile and static charging solutions to education establishments throughout the UK and wider world.

For today’s teachers, ICT is more than a passion. Recent research from Netgear reveals that more than half of teachers use ICT in every lesson that they teach, and 77 per cent have experienced an increase in classroom interaction as a result of pupils using technology. What is more, the latest ICT Provision and Use report by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) reveals that UK schools use a whopping 2.5 million computers between them.

With ICT forming such an integral part of modern education, schools could find themselves severely disadvantaged if they were left without their technology. Unfortunately, it is exactly this high level of expensive equipment that makes schools attractive to thieves.

Often large, open-plan and accessible, schools are prime targets for both organised and opportunist theft. Netbooks, laptops, iPads and iPod Touches are small and light, so they can be easily removed from a building if the effective security measures are not in place.

Having computer equipment stolen is not just inconvenient. As well as causing difficulty for pupils, who may be left without IT resources, a school’s insurance premiums could increase if it has to claim for the loss. More worryingly, there could be serious consequences if data concerning vulnerable children fell in to the wrong hands.

ICT theft is both costly and dangerous, but there are ways that schools can put themselves less at risk. So what exactly should teachers be doing?

Although schools will need to spend at least some cash to ensure that they are best protected against technological theft, there are some sensible precautions that schools can, and should, take for free. As with any expensive resource, schools need to avoid advertising desirable ICT equipment to thieves. Staff should refrain from mentioning ICT assets on the school website and social networking sites, and schools should not tell the local press if a lot of new equipment has been purchased.

Another sensible tip is to make sure that visitors are accompanied when they walk around the building and that all guests sign in and out. Schools also need to take care to ask any external IT technician to present ID before they are taken to service computers, or other valuable resources.

As well as following simple common sense security measures, schools can also invest in physical restraints to make their ICT resources less at risk of theft. Laptops and tablets are best protected in a secured lockable cabinet that can be bolted to the wall or floor, especially overnight or during the holidays. Locking laptops in a room or cupboard is not enough; the cabinet should be constructed of reinforced steel, not wood or plastic, and be designed to resist crowbars, cutting equipment and lock-pickers. Mobile storage and charging trolleys provide effective overnight storage, and it is a good idea to select one with a motion sensor alarm to further deter thieves.

Although lockable charging cabinets are great for protecting laptops and tablets overnight, schools also need to think about how they can reduce the risk of theft while their equipment is in use. When pupils are working in open-plan areas, security cables and systems that lock laptops to desks can help prevent passersby from taking valuable equipment when students may not be looking. This is especially important for schools located in high crime areas, or that have frequent visitors. It is also sensible to lock down your desktop computers and projectors because, although these are more difficult to move, a committed thief will certainly have a go.

Protecting equipment from external thieves is certainly important, but, for some schools, the problem of theft can also reside a little closer to home. Although it is a shame, schools need to be realistic and accept that, if a pupil removes a laptop from the classroom, either to take home, or work on in another building, they may not necessarily bring it back.

If teachers or administrators are responsible for issuing laptops, schools could reduce this problem by using a deposit system to ensure equipment is returned, or use a register to tick off pupils’ names when laptops are put back into the storage cabinet.

If students need to issue themselves with laptops, schools could invest in a charging cabinet that pupils can access via their existing smartcards –the ones that they use for the library or to buy lunch. These cards link to a school’s database, enabling teachers to monitor which laptop has been taken from the cabinet, identify its whereabouts if stolen and spot which student may have damaged a laptop.

ICT equipment has become invaluable to today’s teachers and pupils, but schools risk losing their computer assets by not securing them against theft. ICT theft is costly, inconvenient, and, potentially, dangerous, and schools need to act now to protect themselves and avoid these problems. It is often easier, and cheaper, to protect against ICT theft than to deal with its repercussion; prevention really is better than cure.

Technology in Education

Author: Mark Exley, General Manager (Product Development)

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