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Take Control of Laptop Lending: Securing K-12 Mobile Device Fleets

Deploying a fleet of laptops, tablets, and mobiles in an educational space requires an understanding of the key elements that must take place to ensure proper usage, their security, and beneficial leverage.

On any given day, it’s common to see a fourth-grade classroom with students filming iPad videos to reinforce the day’s textbook learning. It’s routine for a seventh-grader to stop by the school library or a laptop locker, to check out a Chromebook for a social studies group project.

And high school classes involve daily use of Chromebooks to take in-class quizzes, as well as teachers expecting in-class use of cell phones to research world events or vote on a poll.

Tablets, iPads, laptops, and Chromebooks provide an exciting way to supplement the learning experience, however managing and securing an entire fleet of mobile devices and data can be daunting. For older students, laptops or Chromebooks may be assigned to individual students as loaners (as well as teachers/staff).

Younger classrooms may have tablets and mobile devices assigned to classrooms, and computer carts with additional technology available for check-out from a loaning system.

Regardless of the approach, schools are lending out laptops and arming students with mobile learning devices – and schools are now challenged to manage and protect entire mobile fleets, and their data.

Setting Up the Loaner Fleet

The first step in taking control of your mobile fleet is the initial setup. Begin by pre-loading devices with security and management software, then add the educational software, digital versions of textbooks and other classroom resources.

Cybersecurity software should include effective access controls for the network, especially for accessing privileged administrative databases and email systems. Each mobile device is a network endpoint, so laptops, servers and mobile devices will all need dedicated security and antivirus solutions.

Schools, or in most cases school districts, should then define and enforce security policies for regular system patching, data protection & backup and firewall administration, as well as security tests and virus scans.

The cybersecurity industry offers a variety of proven endpoint security, prevention, and detection solutions. Schools lacking the expertise can enlist help from managed security service providers—and your local state cybersecurity agency can typically offer affordable, high-level protection for districts.

Once your security and software are installed, you’ll need a solution to manage the mobile fleet and keep track of them.

Device Management is Key

Device management is the next challenge. Aside from equipping the devices with the necessary software, these endpoints must be properly utilized, secured, and not putting student data at risk.

Device management software, like Prey’s platform, provides a way to maintain clear sight on a school’s laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. This software helps unify all devices under a single online monitoring platform that ensures the fleet is where it should be, used how it should be, and actively protected.

These are only some of the issues that an IT manager face:

  • Stolen devices or non-returned ones.
  • Device assignation and distribution.
  • Fleet accountability.
  • Data protection.

What does Prey have to offer?

Prey offers a platform for education institutions with simplified endpoint management and automated security, data privacy and anti-theft in a single platform.

The tracking suite helps stay tuned to the whereabouts of all of a school’s laptops, tablets, and mobile devices to prevent loss or theft, and set up Control Zones to automatically know and react to unwanted exits with anti-theft and data protection tools, as well as alerts.

Schools’ security managers can view devices’ statuses and hardware changes with Prey. They can assign devices to faculty or students through a single, multi-operating system platform—grouping devices by class or usage with custom tags.

Finally, the data wipe and retrieval actions add another layer of protection and privacy, which helps comply with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Takeaways

Deploying a device fleet is a huge benefit, but it is not a simple process at all. It requires preparation, time, and vision to ensure the usage of the devices is controlled, and the impact can be measurable and beneficial for both students and teachers.

Nicolas Poggi

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.