Digital security basics to make 2023 disruption free

Issue: Volume 102, Number 2

Posted: 23 February 2023
Reference #: 1HAZQM

This article explores the connection between digital security, online safety and privacy. Each component plays an important role as part of a robust digital security setup for schools and kura. We’ll be continuing the conversation about digital security in coming editions of Education Gazette, with more cyber security and privacy advice. Additionally, stay tuned for the upcoming launch of the digital strategy, ConnectedAko: Digital and Data for Learning, which will roll out with a series of powerful stories of students and educators embracing and thriving in the digital world.

Student using digital infrastructure for assignments.

Student using digital infrastructure for assignments.

Technology is an integral part of rangatahi education. With cyber-attacks on the education sector becoming increasingly common and more sophisticated, it’s important that IT setups in schools and kura are secure.

Schools and kura that are slow to take preventative cyber security actions face the prospect of disruption to learning by being locked out of systems and devices, sensitive information being compromised, financial loss and reputational damage.

What exactly is cyber security?

Cyber security is the use of controls to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and protect against unauthorised access to networks, systems and information. These controls can take the form of technologies or processes that shore-up security.

This can include actions like email filtering, keeping software up-to-date, monitoring traffic on your school’s network for unusual activity, running backups, or enabling two-factor authentication for staff at your school.

Schools and kura should rely on a range of ongoing cyber security controls as key activity to keep cyber criminals out.

Online (cyber) safety

While the need to prepare ākonga for a digital world is an essential part of education, being online comes with obvious risks, from exposure to bullying, grooming, illegal content, to scams.

As the amount of time we spend online increases, so too does the risk of being exposed to harmful content.
As such, awareness and education are required.

This may include knowing what to look for to be able to identify a scam email, how to apply critical thinking to our online experience, and how to be a good online citizen.

An important piece of legislation that helps to keep New Zealanders safe online is the Harmful Digital Communications Act. It includes 10 communication principles for how to engage online.

The principles look to ensure that communications shared online are not: abusive or threatening, obscene, denigrating, bullying, making false allegations, or sharing private information about an individual.

Netsafe has the responsibility to resolve alleged breaches of the Act. In addition, schools and kura can ensure a level of online safety within their network by having strong policies on use of devices and online behaviour in place. It’s important that these policies are well-communicated and understood by staff and ākonga.

Students working together using digital resources for study.

Students working together using digital resources for study.


Schools and kura have a legal responsibility to protect personal information of ākonga and staff. Again, strong digital security measures can play an important role to protect personal information.

It is vital that schools and kura know which digital platforms they use to store personal information. This includes taking stock of the cloud-based systems your school or kura may use, or if data is stored on servers, where are these servers located.

The Ministry of Education encourages schools and kura to review their privacy policy once a year and make sure it’s available for your whānau and school community to read – ideally on your website. 

A privacy policy should include:

  • what personal information your school collects
  • details of how the information will be used
  • the purpose for collecting the information
  • instructions for how people can request access to their information
  • details of how personal information is stored and how long it’s held for.

Each school and kura should have a privacy officer – someone’s whose role is to uphold and review privacy policies and follow-up on any privacy breaches.

A first line of defence for online safety

The Ministry is developing initiatives to help schools and kura level-up their digital security profile. If staff and ākonga are security conscious when online, this can provide a complementary layer of security against cyber threats.

However, a high-performing digital security setup should act as a comprehensive first line of defence. Such an approach removes the human-factor and a reliance on people to take the right action every time when faced with a possible threat, like dealing with a phishing email for example. 

Ākonga demonstrating knowledge sharing while building digital literacy skills.

Ākonga demonstrating knowledge sharing while building digital literacy skills.

Keep up to date

For more information on Netsafe’s role and the Harmful Digital Communications Act and its 10 principles, see (external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:48 am, 23 February 2023

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