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What’s the Difference Between Data Privacy and Network Security?

What’s the Difference Between Data Privacy and Network Security?

Student data privacy has received a lot of attention in education media. Student data privacy addresses the ability of a school system to protect confidential student information and create policies that determine what data is permitted to be shared with third parties. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has taken a leadership role on data privacy through its Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Leadership Initiative. CoSN also created the Protecting Privacy Toolkit, which is an excellent resource for school district staff.

While data privacy can be related to network security – largely through unauthorized access – the Network Security in a Hyperconnected World white paper does not explore the issue of data privacy. Network security may be less prevalent in the media, but it is a top priority for district technology leaders across the country. Technopedia defines network security as “an over-arching term that describes the policies and procedures implemented by a network administrator to avoid and keep track of unauthorized access, exploitation, modification, or denial of the network and network resources.”

Securing education networks from viruses, malware, hackers, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks has been an increasing challenge for school systems across the country, and these types of cyber-attacks are projected to escalate in the years ahead.

“It used to take a tech-savvy hacker to compromise the system, now it’s a credit card.”

—Douglas G. Pearce, Director, Technical Support Services, Broward County Public Schools, Florida


Network security is becoming increasingly important with technology’s growing role in facilitating education and business operations in school districts. One computer per student (1:1), bring your own device (BYOD), and/or other mobility initiatives are widespread in school districts. These devices and their users depend on access to a district’s network and online resources both in school and at home. State and local K–12 programs designed to increase graduation rates, promote college and career readiness, and deliver personalized or customized learning opportunities also depend on ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet and digital resources. The pervasive use of online assessments, digital content and tools, curriculum-enhancement software, and administrative applications in the K–12 education community is challenging even the most sophisticated IT departments. Much more data is being collected by school districts; however, instead of housing data collection systems internally in their own data centers, schools are moving their data storage to the cloud either directly or indirectly through the use of cloud-based education resources.

Increasing reliance on the network for all aspects of instruction and business operations dictates a corresponding responsibility to assure that these resources and environments are safe and secure. With greater use come more risks due to the additional complexities and configurations required to manage user access and identities across the network. As a result, school districts (and businesses in general for that matter) have experienced a significant increase in network security incidents. District technology leaders are concerned about protecting their digital resources. Many are identifying and implementing steps to improve their overall network security and to prepare for and mitigate security incidents when they occur.

Excerpted from the newly-published Education Network Security in a Hyperconnected World white paper. Download the full white paper and “Network Security Recommendations Checklist” today!

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