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BYOD to School? 5 Tips for Keeping Student Devices Secure

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Whether in junior high or in college, many students have one thing in common: a smartphone or tablet is in their pocket or backpack. According to eMarketer, by the end of 2013, smartphone users will represent over half of all mobile phone users. And by 2016, nearly three in five Americans will have a smartphone, including students.

This movement has many school officials and parents biting their nails in anticipation all of these new devices connecting to their network and in the hands of kids. How can a university, school or parent possibly control what is added to a mobile device and what is taken away?

Certainly mobile devices make life easier. For many Millennials, computing is an extension of who they are, and it just makes sense that these tools go with them into the classroom.

Allowing employees to bring their own devices into the workplace is not a new concept, so why should it be any different in the classroom? One of the reasons companies are moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the higher productivity of employees when they use their personal device. In the case of school districts and universities, many are following in the same direction. But there are many security and privacy concerns when it comes to kids having access to mobile devices at all times.

Like many things, it basically all comes down to education sprinkled with a little common sense. Here are a few pointers that parents and school officials can share with their kids and students when it comes to mobile security:

--Don't share your mobile devices with friends: Yes, of course it is OK to allow a friend to make a phone call in case of an emergency, but mobile devices should remain private. These devices hold a lot of private data and if a friend is casually using a mobile device, they could be carelessly downloading apps that are infected with malware. At the same time, someone could actually steal sensitive information.

As children get older, new threats emerge, like the ability to deploy spyware that can forward text messages and pictures as well as the ability to activate the microphone and camera remotely. This is less of a concern for grade schoolers, but certainly something that needs to be discussed with college-bound students. No one should be given access to a phone password or the phone itself. Don't do it.

--Make sure you know where apps are coming from: There are many rogue websites that offer free versions of popular apps, as well as illegal music sharing sites, but as we all know, nothing comes free of charge. Downloading an infected app effectively removes many of the key security provisions. These rogue apps can also begin stealing your contacts' information and revealing your location for advertising and marketing purposes.

--Think before scanning QR codes: This basically equates to picking up a toothbrush off the sidewalk and putting it in your mouth. You don't have any idea who put the QR code there, or where it will take you. While QR codes can offer genuine value, scanning an infected QR code can ultimately take a user to a rogue website, which can download malware, send a paid text message or in some cases actually run malicious code on your mobile device embedded within the QR code.

--Investigate all mobile e-commerce platforms: Do you really know whom you are making a transaction with over a mobile device? Do you also know what their security policies are? Change your passwords regularly and use different passwords on different websites.

--Be careful about sharing information on social media: Parents should know what information their kids are posting on social websites, especially photos or locations. Make sure you and your kids know the privacy settings on these types of outlets and make them very stringent on what can be viewed by the public.

This is not about tapping into your kids' privacy; it's about knowing what they are sharing. Finally, be sure to review the privacy settings on devices on a regular basis. You might be amazed what apps are sharing your location, contacts or other information. "Settings -> Privacy" on an Apple device will bring you to a view where you can see what applications are sharing your photos, contacts, location or calendar information. Clearly it is normal for the navigation application to have access to your location, but does it also need access to your photos?

The current generation of kids and students are growing up with technology and they want to use it in every aspect of their daily lives, including school. They have an expectation that the same technology they use at home will be available in the classroom. In order to accommodate this shift, parents and schools must be prepared for the new potential privacy and security concerns attached to mobile devices.

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