Remote Learning Devices – Data Recovery for School Device Theft

Device management in schools is no longer just about PC tracking after a computer theft. Schools who are looking for the best recovery software must also consider issues like device and laptop data recovery, and use their information to help the police.

Device protection of educational IT assets such as laptops, tablets, and mobile devices have evolved enormously in the past years. Their use has changed so much, that instead of blocking their utilization in classrooms, teachers are encouraging its use as a learning tool with the use of Bring Your Own Device program (BYOD) or mobile technologies given by the State and borrowed by the student.

Age of Remote Learning

Due to the pandemic, what we initially believed was “remote learning” has changed significantly. As schools closed, remote education became mandatory and not a chance, and as one NYT article puts it, “this school year has been unlike any other”.

But even if the conditions in schools are changing, the methodology behind remote learning stays the same. Extrapolating the knowledge created by professionals, the “zoom classrooms” are the new standard. K-12 is full of digital natives, children that live among technology and applications. And no technology is far from security risks.

Security Threats For Remote Learning

School devices are no longer necessarily hooked up to an Ethernet cable and a desktop computer. School children are not just prone to losing their stuff, but are a potential threat for pickpockets or theft.  Now, imagine these devices are commonly spread around outside the classroom into every student’s home.

The sudden remote work trend also taught us about the risks of bringing devices home to coexist in insecure networks, shady internet connections, and the cybersecurity risks inherently linked to internet usage. Phishing, malware, loss of sensitive data, and also social engineering attacks targeting K-12 students are the most common possibilities.

K-12 Device Tracking

Anti theft security in the school system needs very unique enterprise mobility solutions. According to Edtech Digest, “managing and securing these devices — and safeguarding the students that use them — has become the chief concern for Education IT. Many children aren’t used to carrying around expensive technology and often leave it unattended on their desks or in the playground making it an easy target for theft. So it’s no surprise that public schools are the top location for device thefts in the U.S.”

Of course, the market has a series of choices for theft protection software to track a computer or a tablet. But there is a catch! The personal information of children is delicate and can ask for trouble.

Data Security and Device Protection

Geolocation data, as well as common forms of PII (personally identifiable information) like student ID numbers or household addresses, are protected by law. Basically, that means that any tracking software being used for device protection in a way that allows any person to track that student may be having trouble doing so.

At the same time, student data needs to be protected at all costs. Data security in the education market should cover all bases: personal data from the student, any form of identification, any digital files that can be used to reveal its identity, and all forms of PII that involve technology, such as biometrics, metadata, and as we said, geolocation.

It is a very delicate balance, where you need to protect a lot of information that’s private, or that can be potentially compromised. That doesn’t mean those two can’t coexist, though. Some options take that into consideration, and “if sensitive or personal student data is on the device, it can be retrieved or wiped clean to protect it from unauthorized access,” Edtech Digest points out.

Common School Cybersecurity Complaints

Securly surveyed IT administrators employed by K12 school who are managing a school 1:1 device program:

  • 44% of respondents reported that students in their school at least sometimes lose or misplace devices.
  • 79% answered that an “anti-theft” solution would be at least “fairly desirable.”
  • The majority of admins care most about being able to track the location of the device.

How Prey Can Help

They also pointed out many of their concerns, which Prey can help with:

We need a system that will track a device in school or out. Looking for a device once it is lost or stolen is not good. We basically need to know where it was last either before the battery ran out or the device was factory reset by a thief. Location tracking would be a huge advantage when students are prone to walking off without their Chromebooks.

What to do if a Learning Device is Stolen

But according to computer security experts or police investigators, In the event a protected device is stolen, an investigation is more likely to succeed if this type of technology supports access to the device.

 If you track a stolen computer and access it remotely after they stole it, you’re becoming a police sidekick: you can support their investigation, which can “ultimately lead to the identification and potential arrest of the criminals.”

Tom Sims from the San Jose, CA, police department told Securly that the likelihood that they recover a stolen device “is dependent on the amount of evidence. If the thief didn’t trigger an alarm or leave things behind, it’s unlikely”.

“We find that most thieves don’t use the device themselves. It’s more likely instead that they pawn it off to a friend. We often hear something like “Bob sold it to me for $50”. Thus, we’re not overly concerned with who, it’s more about where.”

Then, when your police-IT investigative team finally finds the culprit and ends up tracking a lost laptop, this long crusade would have proven you worthy.

In Summary

The world of anti-theft security for devices in schools and universities has changed significantly in recent months. Now, data security and device protection must coexist to keep our students and organizations safe.

The alternatives in tracking software can help you protect laptops and other devices that are far away from school premises, having in mind the balance between protection and tracking.

 How do you track school devices? 

About the author

Nicolas Poggi

Nicolas Poggi is the head of mobile research at Prey, Inc., provider of the open source Prey Anti-Theft software protecting eight million mobile devices. Nic’s work explores technology innovations within the mobile marketplace, and their impact upon security. Nic also serves as Prey’s communications manager, overseeing the company’s brand and content creation. Nic is a technology and contemporary culture journalist and author, and before joining Prey held positions as head of indie coverage at TheGameFanatics, and as FM radio host and interviewer at IndieAir.