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5 BYOD Policy Tips Every School Needs to Know to Stay Safe

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | June 24, 2015

BYOD has been a “buzzword” and current trend for quite some time now—and at this point it’s safe to say that bring your own device isn’t going anywhere. The popularity of BYOD is a direct result from the explosion of mobile devices that we’re still experiencing today and schools in particular have to be ready to support a BYOD policy, whether they want to or not.

The idea of letting your students, faculty or guests access your wireless network using their own devices should be something you’re ready for and not fighting against. When transitioning into new Ed tech, it’s always beneficial to look at the positives and the potential negatives, and like a lot of other areas of your mobility strategy BYOD has a lot to cover on both sides.

Devices are the New Shoes

It used to be that people wanted numerous pairs of shoes to walk around in and show-off. These days, students wear new technology (sometimes literally) like a fresh pair of kicks. Studies have even shown that they’re more interested in devices than they are in clothes and accessories.

Technology evolves as quickly as fashion, and that has far-reaching implications for IT departments, especially when it comes to BYOD network designs. Gone are the days that students lugged around a lone laptop. Now they bring highly productive tablets, smartphones, wearables and many other connected devices. The use of mobile technology is steadily creeping up to overtake the popularity of stationary devices. So what does that mean exactly for school wireless networks and IT employees? It means they need to take a good, hard look at network security, authentication and on-boarding, student-data privacy and other BYOD issues.

Five Things to Consider With BYOD

There are five things to look at when creating a BYOD policy. Classroom technology and the IT world in general are evolving at an incredible rate and in order to be successful it’s important to plan ahead and always remain adaptable, some things are minor, while others can pose major challenges:

  • BYOD Policies and MDM: You’ll want to constantly make sure your BYOD policy is well-written, and clear in educating users on safety protocols. It seems obvious but if you don’t have a BYOD policy then you need one immediately, not having one could have disastrous consequences.One component to focus on is MDM (mobile device management) software. Make sure it gives the IT team the capabilities they need, especially regarding information specified as campus-related or sensitive. MDM solutions in general help to secure school and student data if a device is stolen or lost however it does require the authorization from the device owner. MDM has many features and benefits such as wiping devices and resetting factory settings, for more information regarding MDM in schools check out our recent blog post, “What is Mobile Device Management and Why Do Schools Need It?”
  • Beyond the Campus: With businesses, it’s expected that company information will be accessed outside of the workplace, and companies take steps to protect it. However, learning takes place outside of the classroom as well. If sensitive data is available to students elsewhere, there should be restrictions and clear policies in place when accessing that information on an insecure network. Further, some things should only be accessed on a VPN (virtual private network), to make sure no one uninvited sees the information you want to keep private.
  • New and Used Devices: Since Wi-Fi network users are purchasing new devices on a regular basis; you can expect they will bring them onto your campus. They may be brand new, or upcycled, and to avoid security issues, it’s helpful to have a device registration rules in place. This will help to make sure a newly-connecting device becomes “trusted and secure”. IT team members can also conduct periodic audits, to assess and confirm that a previously used device is not in new hands with the same access as before.
  • WYOD (Wear Your Own Device): Wearables are the new rage, and campuses need to get familiarized with them. Each has its own issues, and new policies will need to be created to address how they are used. Although fitness wearables pose minimal threat, items like Google Glass or Apple Watch can cause potentially larger security problems. The things to prepare for are making these devices “enroll” on the Wi-Fi network like any other, and that the data stored should be encrypted. With any recording device, it’s important to have some rules surrounding them. Think of scenarios like having them in locker rooms, bathrooms, and lecture halls or anywhere you don’t want images or recordings to take place.
  • An Evolving BYOD Policy: Despite the potential security challenges, bring your own device will bring plenty of benefits to your school. The key is being aware, proper planning and being flexible to prevent problems. Your BYOD policy is a living thing—it will need to be looked at consistently and altered to fit where technology is at the current moment. Instead of glancing at the policy once a year, you’ll want to make it an ongoing task.

At SecurEdge we’ve been helping schools of all sizes and types establish the necessary wireless infrastructure and security policies to support the growing demand on their wireless networks. If you have any questions or would like to discuss some of the challenges your facing, simply contact us here!

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