Personal Information – How safe is yours?

Personal Information – How safe is yours?

At Gooseberry Planet, we deal with hundreds of schools every day.

What I am noticing more and more is the number of teachers’ email addresses that are getting hacked.  I must receive 10 emails a day from teachers which contain an attachment with a Purchase Order? or payment information and a link to follow.  I know that these have been generated by an account that has been hacked.

Are we really taking enough care to protect our passwords and our personal information?  Once a person has access to our email accounts, they have the freedom to access ANY of our accounts and reset passwords.  As a school you should ensure that all staff are aware of the risk of being hacked.   v Phishing emails are commonplace and look so innocent.  They ask you to follow a link and enter your personal information.  Pop-up ads may do the same, perhaps masquerading as a genuine company but in fact using malware to re-direct you to a different website altogether, which then misuses the information that is unwittingly divulged.   I know school networks have been put down completely due to one member of staff not being vigilant.  Staff should know never to enter personal information via a link – always go to the website directly, check that it uses securely encrypted messaging (shown by “https” in the web address) before sending personal details.

I am also noticing how many staff use their personal email for work and work email for personal bits.  This should really be discouraged.  Some teachers also use their school email to access private apps on school networks.  These Apps, if not from reputable sources, can also pose a security risk to your network.   This is a particular concern to schools in light of their responsibilities for data protection.

The first line of defence for any organisation is passwords.

Staff should know how to set a strong password (you would be amazed how many people use “123456” or “password”).      I do love our password system in the Gooseberry Play.  We are already teaching children as young as 5 to generate passwords that have 3 words in.  You might think, how on earth do you teach a 5-year-old to do this?    Well, we use pictures.  For example, bluedog5, is a picture of the colour blue, a picture of a dog and the number 5.  Teachers love this and so do the students but best of all, it is the beginning of the educational process about how to stay safe online.

The irony is that we are teaching our children how to protect their data when many staff seem not to know themselves.  I know that 71% of teachers use Facebook and this platform (and others) there are often quizzes.  People seem unable to resist answering questions that are often quite simplistic and offer very little informed feedback to the user.  Be wary of these.   They may ask questions about your children’s names, your star sign, your pet’s name, your favourite colour.  They are collecting personal information which can be useful to criminals trying to guess passwords in order to hack accounts.  Resist the urge to complete online quizzes!

This month’s alert is about Personal Information and advice on how to protect it.  As usual, we offer this advice to Students, Parents and Teachers, all with conversation starters.

Interesting facts for social media & personal information

BBC article

More than £190,000 a day is lost in the UK by victims of cyber-crime, police statistics show.

More than a third of victims in that period fell prey to the hacking of social media and email accounts.

Action Fraud said £34.6m was reported to be stolen from victims between April and September 2018, a 24% increase on the previous six months.

The City of London Police, which runs Action Fraud, has warned people to keep separate passwords for online accounts.

The figures show 13,357 people in the UK reported cyber crimes over six months.

More than 5,000 of those people were hacked via their social media and email accounts, costing victims £14.8m.



Is online gaming good or bad?

If you have a child aged between 8 and 13 years, you will know the challenges of managing their online gaming.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is to get my son off his Xbox.  Many of us will have tried various different approaches from enticements to threats to try to limit their time gaming.

We all worry about children being online so much, but we do very little to find out what the appeal is.  We hear them chat away about Skins, V-Bucks and Screamers and we switch off, thinking it sounds like a foreign language.   A few months ago, I decided to take more interest in what my son was doing whilst gaming and I have been surprised.  My perception, like most people’s, was that gaming is not sociable and is removed from the real world, but I found a very different story.  So, I would like to encourage you to do the same – take the time to listen to the conversations young people have whilst gaming.   I think like me, you would change your views.

I know that, like everything in life, it needs to be done in moderation, but gaming is sociable and very interactive.  During their games young people are talking about daily events, football, playing out, what they did last night and also what their strategy is to win the game- working together to beat the competition.

A few days ago, I was talking with a couple of non-gamers (middle aged people) and their argument was that gaming isn’t in the real world.  I asked them, “What is the different between speaking through a headset and a mic to communicating by telephone.  The truth is, there is none.  Their other criticism was that gaming is in an imaginary world, again not real.  Yes, I agreed, but we don’t have a problem with children reading imaginary stories or playing imaginary games away from the screen, so why should that be demonised on-screen?  I’m not advocating endless hours of game play, but I do think we need to both recognise the appeal of gaming to young people and remember the same arguments we had with our parents when we were young about watching TV.  I remember my Dad got so fed up with me and my siblings watching television that he put a meter on it.

I do know gaming is very addictive; I also know that there are risks.  Our job is to teach young people how to manage their screen time and to be aware of the potential risks.  They don’t want a list of do’s and don’ts but the how and why.  We should have conversations with them around “new people online” and self-management.  (I suggest using the words new people online rather than stranger danger, as children will often not perceive people they have been gaming with as strangers).  Parents need to put boundaries in place. Use the tools that are built in to the devices.  There are time limits that you can set, and yes, the child might well go a bit nuts, but if you take the time to have a conversation in advance and agree some sensible time limits, then it will be much easier.

We all need to educate ourselves, especially if you are teaching online safety in your school.  Why not take part and try to understand what children are doing instead of switching off, because you don’t understand it.  You might even enjoy it!  Talk to students about staying in a group and not going off and playing with gamers that they do not know in the real world.  On our YouTube channel I have my 12-year-old son talking about all the different aspects of Fortnite.  Why not show your class or watch yourself and see what’s involved?

The best advice I can give, is that children and young adults must always have a safe place where they feel they can talk openly about their concerns and experiences, even if these might make us uncomfortable.   In class is a great place to acknowledge that we all make mistakes and reinforce the importance of asking for help.  Not all experiences in life are going to positive, but teachers are some of the trusted adults who are there to help.  For older students, who may feel embarrassed to ask for help in a busy classroom, consider instituting a system whereby a pupil could flag up the need for a confidential conversation without alerting others in the class.

We are worry about our children being groomed.  You may be aware of the Breck Bednar story.  He was a 14-year-old, murdered by an 18-year-old gamer who groomed him.  The story is so tragic, but because he was not on any list, or register for being at high risk and came from a lovely middle-class family in a middle-class area, it was not taken seriously.  When children are being groomed, it can happen to any person, from any walk of life.

Watch out for ALL children, not just the ones that appear vulnerable.

Have you attended one of our webinars yet?  These are FREE of charge and will take approximately 30 minutes and will cover the areas listed here:

February 25th at 8.30am – Online Gaming
March 25th at 8.30am Copyright
April 2nd at 4pm – Safeguarding and your responsibility with My Concern.
April 3rd at 4pm – Radicalisation with Sean Arbutnot, Prevent specialist.

Did you know we are offering a free 2-week trial?  Just follow this link