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The Benefits of Internet Security on the Education Front

Online Courses Bring Advantages and Security Threats A college education is mandatory in today’s job market. Because of this, many workers find themselves pursuing a higher education while they are employed. One way colleges are making access to education more convenient for workers is by offering a wide range of their curriculum via online courses. This growing trend brings with it all the advantages and disadvantages associated with Internet connectivity. One of the main advantages to students is easy access to their coursework at all hours of the day and night. In fact, online classes can usually accommodate any work schedule.

The ease of communication with the instructor is another reason online courses are so popular. Still another important advantage is that online courses can be accessed easily from any public commuter with an Internet connection, like those you might find at universities or in public libraries. Colleges and universities support this trend toward online classes because they can attract more students and increase revenue without incurring the overhead associated with a classroom full of students. However, as with any trend, there is a downside to this rapid increase in online education. Chief among the challenges institutions face is the need to defend against Internet-based threats.

These threats are inherent in Web access and include instant messaging and peer-to-peer file sharing, spyware and phishing attacks, a wide-range of objectionable Web content and human nature itself. MySpace.com Examples of human corruption as a source of Internet-based threats are everywhere. The Internet is rife with everything from the criminality of hacking and phishing attacks to the irritation of surreptitious spyware agents. The most dangerous threat is from predators who often target young people, the very ones who are likely using computers at schools and libraries. In a recent scandal involving MySpace.com, a predator was tracking the movements of teenaged girls via their myspace.com postings. Predators on the Internet have been present since the beginning of Internet technology. They fish in chat rooms, message boards and e-mail.

Even if the unsuspecting public is aware of the dangers posed by predators, the need for Internet security is essential in any strategy for defending against Web-based threats. This becomes even more critical when an educational site is vulnerable to attack. Colleges provide their own websites, message boards, blogs and email addresses. When a phisher or hacker or a predator with hacking skills is able to breach the unsecured network of a college, it leaves more than just intellectual property open for perusal. And if external threats to the students and the network were not enough, a system administrator at a college also has to deal with the actions of the students as well. The Hazards of Downloading Computer access in the college library is very common even on the smallest of community college campuses. Students unaware of security threats can easily surf a number of questionable websites, downloading objectionable material and leaving a network vulnerable by visiting a chat room or opening an instant message with a skillful hacker on the other end. Through any of these means an unprotected network can be at risk for backdoor programs, viruses and hackers. Defending against these threats is important for network security, student safety and the college’s reputation. An unsecured network is easy prey for an experienced hacker and the last thing a college can afford is to have a student’s personal information or worse, financial information compromised.

Reputation and Integrity Colleges rely on their reputations and integrity to distinguish their institutions in a crowded field. Their reputation is comprised of many elements including student success rates and faculty expertise. The integrity of a college’s network security can directly impact student enrollment because any decline in a school’s good reputation can spread like wildfire. Schools with diminished reputations can see enrollment fall off as parents and students alike find other schools with better reputations. This situation doesn’t just affect colleges, it also applies to local schools and school districts where networks, computers in classroom and wireless connections are becoming more common. Even more compelling, protecting young children is more critical for schools than even their reputations. Utilizing proper filtering hardware and software can protect the integrity of the educational institution as well as their security and by extension, the security of the students. Filtering hardware can prevent students from accessing unsafe websites or questionable ones. It can prevent downloading of materials, backdoor programs and worms. The Obvious Solution With the use of filtering hardware, schools can protect ports into their network exploited by instant messaging programs and more.

When it comes right down to it, educational institutions are negligent if they do not employ the right network security. With so many potential problems waiting to prey on the unsuspecting and unsecured network, filtering hardware is the obvious answer.


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