Safety in Cyberspace

 10/17/2018 - 22:06
Chromebooks in SMS
Recent concerns have been raised about the Chrome browser's security

With Saline High School requiring students to have their own computers or Chromebooks, we have the potential to transform the way we teach and the way students learn. We also have the potential for additional headaches with damaged machines and drained batteries just the beginning.

Saline is a G-Suite school district. That means students and faculty have access to a full suite of Google applications. If you haven’t been paying attention you may be surprised at all the varied applications available to students and teachers that are from Google – from Docs and Sheets to Slides and Maps, the Google brand is hard to escape in the landscape of learning.

But each week we read of another breach of security and resulting leaked data, often affecting millions of users. The numbers can be numbing yet many users are still careless and fall for phishing scams or hand over our passwords far too readily.

Adults are slowly learning to hold our personal information closer to our chests and have embraced a new caution. I have seen longer passwords and two-factor authentication (where you log in once and then log in a second time through your smartphone). I have also seen people simply abandon social media entirely.

In September, Google quietly changed the way it had people sign into their popular browser, Chrome. When Google automatically signed you into Chrome just by using an application like Gmail, without any notification, that got the attention of cybersecurity experts around the world – including a few in our own backyard.

Google has since fixed that issue – or appeared to fix the issue but the whole experience has since made security experts increasingly leery. That said, after hearing from Saline’s own educational technology specialist and from members of a Michigan Ed Tech Specialists group, I feel a little better about the experience our students will have.

Chrome, with its helpful extensions, add-ons, and bookmarks is still relatively safe for students especially considering that using a Chromebook in school means they can only function with the permissions and tools allowed by their system administrator. I'm comfortable with that.

 

Michael McVey is a professor of educational technology at Eastern Michigan University and a Trustee on Saline Area Schools Board of Education.

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