SPS enhances online security for start of school year

SPOKANE, Wash.– Spokane Public Schools is boosting cyber security ahead of the start of virtual learning this month.

The SPS Director of Technology and Information Scott Kerwien said Friday that he feels confident in using Microsoft Teams for classroom meetings.

“As long as teachers don’t post [links] publicly, then we are feeling very safe and secure of our use of Microsoft Teams for classroom meetings,” Kerwien said.

Kerwien said that they have safeguards in place to deter hackers and keep kids on educational sites. At schools across the country, including in Pullman, people have hijacked online meetings, sometimes sharing illicit images. SPS said it has already taken steps to prevent this.

“Each meeting link is completely different and a string of special characters and numbers we often see in very encrypted and secure websites,” Kerwien said. “So, each time a teacher runs a classroom meeting, that meeting invite changes,” Kerwien said.

Kerwien explained that teachers have been asked not to post the links to class meetings in public places. In the rare case of someone hacking into the meeting link or getting access to it, there is another layer of protection. Kerwien said teachers will utilize the virtual waiting lobby. The teacher will have to admit each person into the online classroom.

The district will also manage how students use laptops, according to Kerwien.

“We use a program called Absolute, which helps us see who is using the device, if it’s being used for educational purposes, where it is physically located,” Kerwien said. “We have the ability to lock out the device and render it usable. We also, within that, can push out our web filter,” Kerwien said.

Virtual SPS classes start Monday, Sept. 14.

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