Canadian Schools Are at Risk for Data Breaches. How Can They Protect Themselves?

Canadian Schools Are at Risk for Data Breaches. How Can They Protect Themselves?
Canadian Schools Are at Risk for Data Breaches. How Can They Protect Themselves?

Technology in education has brought us the glories of e-learning and, unfortunately, the threats of data breaches. This may sound surprising, but according to the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon, data was disclosed in 99 of 382 registered hacking incidents.

What does this mean for Canadian students, and how can educational institutions secure their data? Keep reading to find out.

Problems With Data Security in Canadian Educational Institutions

As the Canadian government is getting more serious about data security, so should the country’s educational institutions. The academic sphere is constantly bombarded with phishing emails, viruses, ransomware and other tricks to steal the names, email addresses, bank details, medical records and Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) of students and staff. Even if hackers fail in luring out sensitive data, 35% of data breaches in education still occur due to human error.

Within educational institutions, keeping personal information secure is especially important when using third-party EdTech solutions in the educational process. How do you know the data you’re giving out over all the educational software is being properly processed and stored?

In these conditions, educational institutions should be fully armoured and ready to combat hacking attacks. Instead, they are left without resources for data privacy strategies or obligatory data ethics training.

How Academic Institutions Stay Safe

Schools, colleges and universities are not ignorant about data security. In fact, they must comply with many rigid security regulations. FERPA, COPPA, and PPRA are just a few examples of laws academic institutions must abide by to protect their students’ and staff’s information.

Here is a map of data protection laws, which shows how austere regulations are in various countries, if you’re curious. As you can see, data protection laws in Canada are heavy. On the one hand, when applied correctly, these laws can protect student data privacy. On the other hand, without IT admins who can translate these directives into frameworks for data privacy, there is no guarantee school databases are safe. At the end of the day, the bulk of the effort must come from academic institutions to stay safe.

What Canadian Educational Institutions Need to Do

Colleges and universities can minimize risks in several ways:

  • Employ a person to be responsible for data security. With an expert on hand, educational institutions have a better chance of complying with all the necessary regulations to secure their data.
  • Regularly train staff members on data security. There is no guarantee your teachers won’t forward an email with your personal information to someone else. For this to change, teachers should be regularly instructed about data security, privacy and how to handle data.
  • Only cooperate with trustworthy software vendors. Downloading random software without reading the terms and conditions allows it into the school’s network and is a big no-no. Instead, institutions should partner with trustworthy software vendors who take data security seriously. The vendor must adhere to local data regulations and personal data protection policies, implement server-side data encryption and provide secure data storage.

A Vendor You Can Trust

The software vendors you choose have to embed the data privacy rules of Canada into their algorithms. Be sure they store and process your data ethically, conforming to your institution’s privacy norms.

What does a trusted EdTech solution vendor look like? Let’s take Unicheck as an example. Unicheck is a plagiarism checker for students and teachers that keeps the security of their data in mind.

Numerous schools and universities all over the world trust them with their data because of Unicheck:

  • Follows the highest standards of personal data protection currently available
  • Complies with GDPR, FERPA, and COPPA
  • Follows the current EU and US regulations on data storage and processing
    Has opened a data center in Canada (the closer you store and process data to the academic institution, the more secure it is)
  • Has data centers in Europe, the U.S. and Australia
  • Uses Amazon cloud to ensure data privacy


Summing it up

It is unwise for institutions to be in denial about hacker attacks, as all schools are prone to data breaches. Educational institutions are attacked constantly, and many are successful. While institutions are obliged to comply with state regulations on data security, they lack responsible for implementing these regulations.

How can your academic institution protect itself? By finding an IT admin responsible for data security, training the staff on how to handle data and only incorporating EdTech software developed by trusted vendors.