Going Above and Beyond Compliance with New York Ed Law 2-D
For Sylvi Joseph, Director of Technology for Cohoes City School District in upstate New York, data security is essential. In New York, schools are required to meet the state-level student privacy regulation, Ed Law 2-D. For many school technology leaders in the state, the Ed Law 2-D regulation was the impetus for putting more robust data protection in place, but for Joseph, the journey began much earlier.
“It wasn't necessarily just Ed Law 2-D that started this,” Joseph said. “Just over the last several years, we've seen a huge uptick, just in society in general, in the theft of data for profit: ransomware, phishing, etc. And we just felt that we needed to better secure both our staff and students’ PII, or personally identifiable information. [That includes] names, date of birth, addresses, medical health record information, HR benefits, claims-related info, student IEPs.” In addition to supporting Ed Law 2-D compliance, Virtru’s email and file encryption also strengthens compliance with FERPA and HIPAA.
“Virtru Was, By Far, the Winner”
This proactive search for a privacy-preserving data security platform led Joseph to evaluate his options. “I didn't want to wait for somebody else to kick the tires on something, so we started testing different platforms, one of which was Virtru, and ended up deciding that that was what we were going to go with. We needed to get off the ground [quickly].”
So, what made Virtru the ultimate choice for Cohoes City School District? “I think it’s ease of use more than anything,” Joseph responded. “There are other platforms that are similar, in terms of… protecting data or emails. But Virtru was seamless. The other platforms had a separate portal that you would have to log into, or it would open up a separate email window, not necessarily within your Outlook client or, in our case, Gmail.”
“Virtru just adds that little little extension into the Chrome browser. Just being able to hit ‘compose’ on your email and type away as you normally would, or send attachments as you normally would, and then just hit the little radio button to encrypt your message… That's what I think made it attractive to us. And it's something that we put out to our users: At least a few key stakeholders in the beginning were testing the different platforms and Virtru was, by far, the winner.”
From Superintendents to Students, Email Encryption Protects PII
For Joseph, it’s important to know that his district is getting the most out of Virtru. “My focus has always been on my customers, meaning the staff, students, and administrators in the district — making sure that the solutions that we provided were something that was easy to use, easy for them to implement in the classroom or in the office.”
“I've got emails right here, from our Superintendent Secretary and Assistant Superintendent Secretary. The role is a confidential role, and she says that she uses it to send and receive encrypted email both internally and externally.”
The use cases extend far beyond the administrative team: A major use case for the district was sharing contact tracing information with the Department of Health — which needed to be encrypted. The district also uses it to protect students’ individualized education plans (IEPs), which are used throughout schools and frequently in special education programs. That information needs to be shared with parents while being protected, and Virtru fills an important role there.
The Ultimate Goal: Protecting Children, Educators, and Families
For Joseph, the current cyber landscape presents a lot of threats to data security. “It's scary. I mean, when you think about it, we're holding on to that data for students and staff and faculty. Just compare it to having your own personal identity stolen: Your personal data, your social security number, your credit card information, and whatnot. It's a scary thought just having to remediate that and calling your credit bureaus. Now, add into that that the the huge layer of a school district and the amount of data, the amount of individuals’ information that you're storing or holding onto as well as student data — not just not adults and staff, but now student data — and the same thing that that you and I could be targets of now, students are at that level also."
“In all aspects of your life, data is out there for the taking, and somebody will take advantage of it if they can.”
Tips for Complying with New York Ed Law 2-D and other State Privacy Regulations
For many technology leaders at New York school districts — or other districts nationwide that need to meet advanced state-level data security regulations — supporting the various facets of compliance can feel like a steep climb. “Just take it a step at a time,” encourages Joseph. “Don't be burdened by the huge weight, especially in New York state if you're if you're dealing with Ed Law 2-D. I mean, I can't even tell you how many pages the regulation is, but there's so many parts to it.”
“I think the the best advice I can give is to kinda break it up into into pieces, do your homework, talk to your peers on on what they're doing or how they're approaching it And I think we've been fortunate to be a part of certain consortiums with our local BOCES and regional outreach centers. We have a huge group of technology directors or superintendents or or business officials, at the district level, that are all kind of working together and sharing things at a regional level. So we've got 150, 200-plus districts that are all kind of collaborating to get through this Ed Law 2-D challenge, at least in New York state. So other states might handle it differently. But again, I think leaning on somebody — leaning on your peers, at least in your particular niche, is gonna be helpful.
“And, you know, it's not to say that email security is the be-all and end-all,” Joseph added. “It's one piece of it. So, again, look at what's right for you. Virtru may not be perfect for everybody. It's been fantastic and super easy for us. I think something like Virtru… is definitely worth the investment. It beats paying a ransom for your own data. I'll tell you that.”
Watch the Full Interview
Want to hear more insights from Sylvi Joseph? Watch the video for the full conversation with Virtru’s Brett McCrae.