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Teachers urged to safeguard student data

Published:Thursday | May 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas


A local cybersecurity expert wants teachers to take greater care in safeguarding student data, following a recent incident in which hackers stole data for 14,000 Jamaican students from 16 high schools and subsequently demanded a ransom for their return.

Dr Moniphia Hewling, head of the Jamaica Cyber Incident Response Team, which is assigned to the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, gave the warning while addressing yesterday's 22nd annual staging of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Helen Stills Professional Development Day, at the Hyatt Ziva Hotel, in Montego Bay.

During her presentation, Hewling made reference to a Sunday Gleaner article published on April 30, 2017, where it was reported that hackers broke into an online server on which the students' information was stored and demanded a ransom of US$5,000 (J$640,000) for the return of the data.


"The Sunday before last, there was a newspaper article in The Sunday Gleaner, where data from several schools was exposed. I always tell people that it was not that the 16 schools were hijacked. It was just one post that had the information," Hewling told the teachers.

"We have to be careful, as teachers and administrators, how we treat student data. We live in a world where data is king, data runs things, and data fetches all the money," Hewling continued. "So you, as administrators and teachers, need to ensure that you have policies and procedures in place to protect the data that you are in charge of."

Hewling also spoke to the need for policy guidelines as it regards information teachers post on social media, including Facebook and closed user groups (CUG) on Internet platforms.

"You pass by a school and the executive secretary that has the automated system with everything about students and teachers, that person is on Facebook. So you need policies and procedures to ensure that things like that don't happen," said Hewling. "You should not be taking a 'selfie' out on the Hyatt Beach in your bikini with the CUG, and when you take that 'selfie,' we do not expect you to post it on the same account that you use to interact with your students. It seems like common sense, but people do it."

The Helen Stills Professional Development Day was held this year under the theme 'Navigating the Educational Landscape - Transforming, Engaging, Collaborating, Facilitating, and Leading'. It is named in honour of former Jamaica Teachers' Association president, the late Helen Stills, who implemented the event during her tenure to address issues related to teachers' professional development.