Apr 03 2023

Google Workspace for Education Helps Keep K–12 Users Secure

IT administrators can feel more confident when students and educators are online, thanks to security settings in the cloud-based software.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern in education, and for good reason.

Since 2020, “there has been an immense uptick in cyberthreats aimed at K–12,” says Ryan Eick, Google Workspace strategist at CDW•G. He says cybercrime is expanding at an alarming rate, with schools representing the most targeted U.S. segment for ransomware exploits.

While ransomware is a big and potentially costly concern, there are other cyber worries as well, especially around “protecting student data and privacy,” says Catherine Albertson, associate manager of onboarding and engagement at CDW Education. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other regulations, schools must secure students’ personal information, but rising cyberthreats pose a challenge.

To counter these threats, K–12 districts can use tools such as ChromeOS and Google Workspace for Education.

Create a More Secure Workspace for Students and Teachers

Google Workspace for Education is built as a suite of tools and services tailored to support collaboration and streamline instruction. However, it also delivers key features in support of enhanced security in both its free and premium versions.

DISCOVER: Learn more about Google Workspace for Education options from CDW•G.

“For example, there is Gmail security sandboxing, which executes attachments in a virtualized instance before they hit the end user’s mailbox. It will catch anything that is deemed malicious and route it directly to a spam folder,” Eick says.

Districts can also leverage context-aware access. With this capability, only people within a designated geographic area can log in to the system, or only someone on a school-owned device can connect to the administrative console.

“Within Google Workspace Standard and Google Workspace Plus, you also have the ability to use the investigation tool to run proactive investigations,” Eick says. “You can see whether anyone has created private rooms or if there have been password leaks. It allows you to find and stop malicious action using an easy user interface.”

Make the Most of the Operating System’s Security Features

Google ChromeOS supports security at the operating system level with a range of features that manage access, along with built-in virus protection and other native controls.

“Because ChromeOS supports a very secure authentication protocol, we can ensure that the person who’s logging in is the right person,” says Gil Anspacher, Google Workspace for Education specialist for CDW Education. “We can limit who can log in to that device, and we can verify who it is.”

LEARN MORE: Single sign-on boosts educator efficiency and security.

To enhance online safety, ChromeOS also manages access according to predefined roles.

“I can hand a Chromebook to a teacher, and they will get the teacher environment, with both the application access as well as the safety and security pieces,” Anspacher says. “I can then hand that device to a third grader, and they’re going to get a totally different experience in the student environment.”

An administrative console gives the IT team the ability to ensure consistency across the Chrome user base.

“Within the admin console, you’re managing the Chrome devices to ensure a safe experience for students,” Albertson says. “You can manage access levels and the types of third-party applications they’re able to access. It’s also very easy to add other applications that enhance security. Other third-party tools operate nicely with Chrome and are easy to configure.”

Ryan Eick
Within Google Workspace Standard and Google Workspace Plus, you also have the ability to use the investigation tool to run proactive investigations.”

Ryan Eick Google Workspace Strategist, CDW•G

Other security and control capabilities in ChromeOS include built-in virus protection, 128-bit data encryption and Verified Boot — an automatic self-check that runs at startup to ensure there is nothing amiss.

Tellingly, Google reports there has never been a successful ransomware attack carried out against ChromeOS.

Give IT Teams the Power to Make Schools Safer

Every day, Gmail blocks 100 million phishing attempts. Each week, Google identifies 30,000 unsafe websites. With cybercrimes becoming more frequent and costly, K–12 leaders can leverage the power of Google to keep students and staff safe.

DIVE DEEPER: Ask these 5 security questions about Google Workspace for Education.

IT admins can make the most of these capabilities with a few key functionalities of Google Workspace for Education.

Take a deep dive into the security center controls within Google Workspace for Education, Eick says: “The security center is where you have a customizable view of your domain. You can go in and get a central look at the domain to see what’s going on under the hood.”

In the security center, IT leaders can customize functions of their Google Workspace, such as spam analysis or phishing attempts.

To maximize protections, IT teams need to have a mechanism in place to keep Chrome devices updated. “Chrome Premium has an extension called Gopher Buddy that lives on the Chromebook device and tells end users when their Chrome version is out of date, prompting them to update their Chromebook,” says Albertson. This helps ensure the latest protections are always in place.

All this in turn will help support the K–12 mission. “We want to create a safe, secure and private environment for learning,” Anspacher says. Tools like ChromeOS and Google Workspace for Education help bring that vision to life.

Brought to you by:

Jose carlos Cerdeno/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT