Building a positive digital security culture

Issue: Volume 101, Number 12

Posted: 21 September 2022
Reference #: 1HAWTP

Tukutuku Kōrero checked in with two schools, each with their own set of circumstances, to find out what they are doing to provide secure online experiences for their staff and ākonga. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to reduce the risk of online security threats, a people-orientated approach is at the heart of the action.  

A large screen in the office acts as a real-time dashboard of activity on the network for Sue Way at Wellington Girls’ College.

A large screen in the office acts as a real-time dashboard of activity on the network for Sue Way at Wellington Girls’ College.

An ever-expanding range of tools and technology continues to enable and amplify learning experiences. 

Technology like cloud file sharing and the adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) by schools, means that learning environments between school and home are connected like never before.

The digital world offers opportunities for students where curiosity can be fostered and students feel more compelled to initiate their own learning, at their own pace. 

So, as schools prepare students for this digital world, how do they tackle the challenge of providing digital services in a secure and safe way? 

Similarly, how do they protect sensitive financial and student information that cyber criminals may aim to exploit?

Te Rerenga School 

Recognising where the knowledge gaps are, and acting on it, has been a key part of Te Rerenga School’s success to shore-up their online security. 

Te Rerenga School is in the Coromandel and has a roll of 120 students. Being a small rural school, “at times we’ve had to problem-solve as best we could,” says Odette Wilson, digital lead teacher. 

It has been a challenge for the school to secure the services of an IT provider who is willing to travel to the school when required. When their previous provider suddenly moved on at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, they found themselves without support from an IT provider for several months. 

Their new IT provider, based in Thames (an hour and
20 minutes’ drive away), also provides services to several other schools in the region. 

The school has engaged their IT provider to set up user settings within the school’s Google suite. To help to protect sensitive student and financial information, the IT provider helped them to switch on two-step verification (2SV) for staff. Then a review into user roles has ensured only those who require admin access have this level of access. 

Tying in school values of kindness and respect with high learning expectations of students mean that online security and safety risks are reduced. 

“It’s just ingrained that they are respectful of their devices. We trust them. We’re lucky to have students who are really engaged in their learning, which means devices are primarily used for learning. Typically, they don’t go anywhere online they shouldn’t,” says principal Mary Kedzlie.

Sue Way

Sue Way

This positive approach to online learning is re-emphasised by a regular visit from their local community police officer who is able to promote online safety with akōnga.  

Wellington Girls’ College

At Wellington Girls’ College, the IT office is where you will find a service desk at a standing height, charge stations and a friendly member of the IT team on-hand to diagnose any laptop issues.  

An online radio station churns out some popular hits. All of it plays into creating a welcoming atmosphere for students and staff, an approach that IT director Sue Way believes plays an important role to mitigate online security risks. 

“The key thing we do is relationships. So, we have an open-door policy. Building the relationship is key, because as soon as anybody sees anything weird, they know where to come,” says Sue. 

Through the building of positive and trusted relationships, it means if someone mistakenly clicks on a dodgy link, they feel comfortable going to the IT team, who can immediately begin working on the issue.

The school has a roll of 1,420 students and 120 staff. Sue keeps staff informed at regular staff briefings on the latest online threats, what to look out for and any other high profile cyber attacks that have made headlines. 

In addition, a key message she promotes to staff and students is to go and see IT if anything seems amiss. 

“Students just don’t think about digital security. To most staff and students their laptop is just a tool, like a spanner or a screwdriver. But that’s fine – that’s why we’re here,” says Sue. 

With a large screen in the office that acts as a real-time dashboard of activity on the network, Sue is able to stay across any network activity that may look suspicious. 

“Having a screen in the background gives me reasonable peace of mind, because I know my network, I know the data and I can pick up if something malicious is going on. So, then I’d log into our firewall and see what is being blocked on the network,” she says.  

One of Sue’s current priorities is to switch the school’s anti-virus system across to Microsoft 365 Defender for Endpoint – which the Ministry of Education offers to all state and state-integrated schools.

Wellington Girls’ College utilises anti-virus software, protection built into the wireless, firewall and email quarantine amongst other technology, which forms their digital security footprint. This combines with a people-orientated approach to create a culture of digital security. 

“It has to come down to people. Educate, have good relationships, then we lower the risk of the people factor playing a part in cyber security incidents,” says Sue.

Say No to Cyber Cyber criminals don’t care if you’re busy or distracted or not quite up to speed on security – if they get into your school, they can wreak havoc.

This year, Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | The Ministry of Education has launched its ‘Say No to Cyber Nasties’ campaign, to promote digital security for schools and kura. 

For tips and advice on cyber security, sign-up to receive the Ministry’s new Digital Download newsletter. 

For more information, visit link).


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:56 am, 21 September 2022

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