Protecting students' identities - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Protecting students' identities

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

In the Savannah-Chatham Public School District, there are 37,243 targets for identity thieves.

"But student education records are highly protected," said SCCPSS communications manager Kurt Hetager

And they have to be.

The personal information of students, even the youngest students, is as likely to be stolen and as valuable to thieves as adult identities.

"Children are targeted," said Agent Gene Kowell of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "sometimes by random criminal elements, sometimes by people who know them, who think this might be an easy way to get credit if they have a bad credit history. And the problem for the child is it's very difficult once they reach adulthood to fix the problem, especially since it probably occurred so many years prior."

So as the growing volume of online data has created an endless venue for cyber criminals, the school system uses technology to protect itself against everything from unauthorized access to system takeover with safeguards set up to keep what's in school computers in and keep what shouldn't be in out.

"We have a very robust firewall, so that protects us from any kind of incoming information that people might be wanting to try to fish for information or some type of directory harvest or things of that nature," said Hetager. "There's also some very powerful security gateway technology that protects our computers, our technology and the things that we use in day to day business and education. The gateway really protects us from any incoming threats. It scans through communication that might be coming through from an outside source."

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibits schools from releasing student education records and there is also protection for and from outside computers in schools.

The Bring Your Own Technology Program encourages students to use personal laptops, tablets and cellphones as classroom tools, but any device brought into a school must be logged on to the school's server and thereby be subject to the school system's restrictions and protections.

"What this does is it allows us to control the filtering, it allows us to control the websites that are approved for usage,'' SAID Hetager. "It's another layer of protection when you might have malicious content out there or inappropriate websites that could cause some kind of security threat."

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