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Security and Privacy

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Concerns over information security have increased since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which emphasized the need for government-wide planning, collaboration and security. This tragedy revealed how federal and local governments had thousands of incompatible information systems, not only to capture and share information about terrorists, but to aid the police officers, fire fighters and rescue crews. The recently established Department of Homeland Security will serve as a central clearinghouse to collect and analyze data related to terrorism. At least eight major agencies and a number of smaller ones will funnel information to this new department. However, in a recent column in The New York Times, William Safire expressed concern that “every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy, every medicine prescription, every Web site visited and e-mail sent or received, every trip and event attended will go into what the Defense Department describes as a virtual centralized general database.”

Security Steps Up

A variety of security problems was expressed by a group of IT managers and school administrators at the National School Boards Association’s Technology+Learning Conference held last month in Dallas. Concern was expressed regarding both inside and outside security, including network security, proper use of ID cards, spam e-mail, content filtering of information, student disregard of privacy, and protection against hackers. Anti-virus protection is a particular problem, because students bring in disks that contain viruses from home computers that can crash the network.

Plano Independent School District in Texas uses an anti-virus solution that allows the district to manage its approximately 23,000 workstations from a single point of management. All updates are pushed from a centralized location to local servers and configured to work with the desktop so that security is completely transparent to the end user.

Copyright protection and its misuse by students is also a continuing problem. Illegal distribution and piracy of copyrighted material is costing media corporations, the entertainment software industry and publishers billions of dollars. So, content providers have begun to incorporate Digital Rights Management technologies into their products, making CDs using DRM that cannot be played on a computer. But, the interests of consumers as well as those of industries need to be addressed.

Assessment and Technology

At the Technology+Learning Conference, the major emphasis was on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, and the role of technology in assessment and accountability. The assessment requirements hold schools accountable for the achievement of all students. NCLB has major implementations in the areas of assessment and technology. It permits greater flexibility in the delivery of instruction, but mandates extensive accountability and evaluation of the effectiveness of programs, resources and products.

Many conference exhibitors addressed the stringent testing and technology demands, and how their products could assist in gathering, managing and implementing assessment results. Other noteworthy issues at the conference included the growing number of collaborations, the increasing use of wireless and handhelds, as well as the ongoing interest of multimedia presentations in the classroom.

Conclusions

Educators at all levels are finding security issues growing, especially in managing network security. It is a complicated endeavor, and a need for network security specialists is evident. An average of $2 million is spent on security every year by large companies, as reported by respondents to a recent area survey by the FBI. Planning for security is an ongoing process, and prevention is just as important as response. Educational institutions have increased the number of bag and badge checks, and are attempting to create uniformity in their security efforts. However, security is mostly a people issue, not a technology issue, and educating the user is of great importance.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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