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3 Types of Data Schools Need to Safeguard


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    Schools are entrusted with a wide range of data about their students, staff, and faculty. 

    In a recent conversation with Cohoes City School District, Director of Technology Operations Sylvi Joseph emphasized the depth and scope of student data that school systems are entrusted to protect.

    Interview with Cohoes City School District


    You can watch the full video conversation between Virtru and Cohoes City School District here.

    While you might not immediately associate schools with data, there are several types of highly sensitive educational information that schools are entrusted to store and share—data that could be incredibly harmful to students and staff if it were intercepted or leaked. 

    Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) 

    One of the most highly sensitive, and commonly shared, types of student data is an individualized education plan, or IEP. IEPs are created for students with special education needs and can include sensitive data like medical diagnoses, student educational performance details, annual goals, and information on supplementary aids and services. 

    These plans often include a team of individuals invested in the child’s success, including parents, teachers, an IEP case manager, and a district representative. IEPs are collaborative and, therefore, need to be shared among the IEP team to report on progress and milestones.  

    Schools need to ensure that a student’s IEP can be easily shared among stakeholders while also remaining secure on behalf of that student. This is where email encryption and file protection, like those Virtru provides, can enable transparency and simplified communication by encrypting student IEPs while still ensuring the student’s private data is safe. Virtru can also encrypt emails sent via many IEP management systems, adding an automated layer of protection to those communications.

    Student Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI) 

    A wealth of information about each student—such as date of birth, home address, and social security number—is kept on file for registration and administrative purposes. Additionally, medical information (such as food allergies and medical conditions) are shared by administrators and teachers to ensure staff members are aware and prepared to respond appropriately in case of an emergency. Medical information can also be documented by school nurses, or communicated as part of a child’s participation in sports or other extracurricular activities.   

    This data is highly sensitive, and as Joseph mentioned in the video above, it’s important to consider the large number of students and families within any given school or school district. The impacts of a ransomware attack or network breach could be massive—especially if this sensitive student data isn’t safeguarded with object-level data protection. By encrypting student data at the object level, educational institutions can ensure each piece of data is wrapped in its own distinct layer of security, safeguarding the private information of every student. 

    Faculty and Staff Employment Information 

    Even during a remote learning environment, schools are constantly bringing on new faculty, staff members, substitute teachers, and volunteers—each with their own paperwork and credentials that need to be submitted and kept on file. Schools need a way to easily accept and store these submissions, as well as share them when needed. 

    HR teams, in particular, are tasked with sharing payroll and tax information with employees, as well as benefits questions and changes. These communications often contain sensitive financial information, like direct deposit details or completed tax forms. 

    HR and administrative teams, in addition to instructors and district representatives, need a way to protect that data in order to maintain trust and credibility with staff and faculty.   

    Virtru for Education: Affordable Email and File Encryption for Google and Microsoft 

    Thankfully, with Virtru’s data protection for Google Workspace; Microsoft Outlook encryption; and encryption for IEP management software, payroll, and CRM platforms, and HR apps like Workday, schools no longer need to choose between securing or sharing sensitive data. They can do both, with the confidence that they maintain control over that data everywhere it’s shared. 

    To discover how your school, district, college, or university system can better protect these critical types of sensitive educational data, contact Virtru today to start the conversation.

    Megan Leader

    Megan Leader

    Megan is the Director of Brand and Content at Virtru. With a background in journalism and editorial content, she loves telling good stories and making complex subjects approachable. Over the past 15 years, her career has followed her curiosity — from the travel industry, to payments technology, to cybersecurity.

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