Eye on ECCS: Information Technology

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NOTE: Each week throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

If there’s one message that technology departments want to share, it’s “stop, look and think!” If it looks suspicious, it probably is.

Recently, two large school districts in Minnesota, Minneapolis and Rochester, were subjected to cyber attacks.

The Minneapolis Public School District announced in March that personal records of students, parents and staff were stolen and released on the dark web. Cyber criminals threatened to release more highly sensitive information if the district didn’t pay a $1 million ransom.

Earlier in April, Rochester Public Schools detected “unusual activity on the district’s network.” This forced them to shut down the network and most of its technology systems while an investigation was conducted. The district decided to cancel classes one day as buildings would have been without internet or district systems.

Craig Larsen, information systems administrator for Eastern Carver County Schools, said detecting an intrusion quickly is the most important factor in cyber attacks.

“It’s likely that something will happen. It’s about knowing how to shut it down as quickly as possible,” he said.

ECCS uses an outside vendor for an annual cyber assessment to validate procedures and controls are current. Internally, ongoing internal assessments look for vulnerabilities. Larsen said technology departments have to work to “stay ahead of the trends.”

Larsen said the district is actively monitoring 24/7, via an outside vendor providing a constant scan of the district’s network. “We can’t be here all the time, but rest assured, someone’s always watching,” he said.

Staff training is also crucial. One of the ways hackers attempt to steal information, such as passwords, is through phishing scams. That’s where “stop, look and think” comes into play. 

Staff training comes in all shapes and sizes. Technology support teams share monthly newsletters with staff. Recent topics included fake search engine advertisements, extortion, tax season scams, and ChatGPL; how cybercriminals are using the popular artificial intelligence to lure in those new to the chatbot.

The district’s IT department isn’t just about keeping systems safe - it also works to keep students safe. ECCS promotes six core values for students in order to be a good Digital Citizen. We use grade level appropriate lessons around these six core values to help students learn about Digital Citizenship (click her to learn more).

  • Media balance and well-being

  • Privacy and security

  • Relationships and communication

  • News and media literacy

  • Digital footprint and identity

  • Cyberbullying, digital drama & hate speech

Additionally, an acceptable use policy provides guidance on proper technology use in the classroom.

Other tools that are used are:

  • Securly: Monitors and filters internet traffic on district-provided Chromebooks regardless of where the device connects to the internet.

  • Google SafeSearch: Enabled on district-provided Chromebooks to protect students from seeing inappropriate Google search results. 

  • YouTube Restricted Mode: Access to YouTube is restricted on district-provided Chromebooks. Restricted mode is on for students in order to protect students from seeing inappropriate content.

  • Student District Google Accounts: Blocked from sending and receiving any external email and sharing of Google files within Grades K-8.

  • Ensuring Online Data Privacy: Following guidance from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and Minnesota State Law (HF 2354), ECCS reviews digital and online tools that support student learning and ensure that your child's data privacy is protected. The digital/online tools inventory is posted at this link.

  • EyeOnECCS