Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Security as an Ethical Responsibility

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Security as an Ethical Responsibility

Article excerpt

As a follow up to my two columns on ethics and technology, please remember that keeping your data safe is a high priority. School psychologists are responsible for some of the most sensitive data in the schools. With the movement to a more digital environment, our data can be more vulnerable than it was just a few years ago. With laptops, desktops, USB drives, and storing data on "clouds" or network servers, it is essential that our confidential information is protected. School networks are sometimes hacked by students. Some students are really sophisticated and knowledgeable about getting into various networks, not to be malicious but as a challenge. Others may want to change information that may impact them, such as a special education record or psychological report. What steps have you taken to review howyou keep data safe and secure? This question may also apply to graduate students, who will have confidential information to share with university and field supervisors.

The first thing to consider is who uses or has direct access to your computer? Who may have access to your files or reports? Where do you store your data? Is it on multiple machines, on a network server, or do you carry files with you on a USB drive? Can others, such as supervisors, access your files to add to them or view them? Can the software provide encryption for your files?

The first step for good protection is to have a password to sign on to your computer account. If you share a computer, a separate account can be set up for each user. This simple process can go a long way to protect your data. Your IT coordinator can set up these accounts through the Administrator function ofWindows. However, this step may not be enough protection if your computer is connected to any network or if you use the computer to access the Internet or network drive. While accessing other drives (hard drives, networks, or USB) or the Internet, you can inadvertently download a Trojan, Spyware, or other such malware. This process can open up your computer information to those outside your office and network.

The next level of security would be a firewall that covers both incoming and outgoing data. Computers are hit within minutes of signing onto the Internet. If yours does not have a firewall, your data is fully accessible to others. Most security packages such as Norton's, McAfee, etc. have such protection. However, it must be updated regularly. Most security suites can be set to update automatically, but I have found if the computer is turned off when the scheduled update is to be run, it skips it. I manually update my security and OS software every 2 weeks. Microsoft has anew Microsoft Security Essentials for free, but it must be downloaded separately. If your computer is connected/ networked to other computers or you use the Internet, then you need to ensure your OS is updated regularly to close security holes.

You should have the latest "patches" for all software, such as Web browsers, to protect you on the Internet. If you use the Windows OS, then all software including IE, Microsoft Office, and the OS itself have regular updates. If you use third party software, updates are typically available to fix bugs and security holes. Go to the Help menu and click on Check for Updates. If you have this as part of your regular routine, your data is fairly safe but not completely. If you send attached files or data packets over the Internet though e-mail, instant messaging, or other means, it is not secure. You will need to do something in addition to protect them.

Wireless connections add to the complexity of keeping data safe. …

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