Visibility, Device Protection, and Online Safety for Students

Delia DeCourcy

According to a Hanover Research report, 30 devices went missing on average at each school between January and September 2020 as students and teachers took devices home for distance learning in response to COVID-19. What’s more, thirty-six percent of school-issued devices were dark from August to October 2020, meaning they hadn’t connected online, anywhere, during that time.

“Device drift” is when schools lose track of computers and tablets that they have issued for remote learning. If you’re dealing with device drift, you’re not alone—41% percent of schools reported feeling challenged tracking devices in the Hanover Research report, “Distance Learning’s Impact on Education IT.

Visibility: You Can’t Secure What You Can’t Manage, and You Can’t Manage What They Can’t See

Education continuity means creating a seamless learning experience regardless of where students are learning. Persistent visibilitywhich means always-on insight into where devices are and what they are doing—is key to managing and securing your devices for long life and ensuring students and teachers have the tools they need to learn, no matter where they are.

The question is, how do you create that visibility into devices that are off premises, that you can’t touch and manually update or secure? How can you discover where a device is, take action on missing devices, and improve your recovery rate?

The solution is Absolute Persistence® embedded into the firmware of Lenovo devices. Absolute gives you unparalleled line-of-sight to your devices and data. Secure your data, devices, and applications with an unbreakable connection to every endpoint—on or off your network.

Beyond giving you visibility into devices, Absolute can even protect other essential applications by helping them self-heal. That’s why Absolute is an integral part of ThinkShield, Lenovo’s comprehensive end-to-end security platform. Lenovo and Absolute’s partnership supports schools engaged in digital transformation. 

It begins on the factory floor, when Lenovo embeds Absolute into devices’ firmware to create an unbreakable link that gives security professionals device control through endpoint visibility and geolocation, geofencing, and device freeze, even off school networks. By seeing every endpoint and the apps and data on it, you know which blind spots to fix, know what needs to be done to meet and report on data and privacy compliance, and have the data to make better decisions. 

Increase Your Odds of Reclaiming Your Dark Device

When it’s time to reclaim a device, the digital tether tells you where that device is, and if it hasn’t logged on, there are log reports to reference last known locations. You can use Absolute to freeze and send a message to student devices with a friendly nudge to remind them to return the device. Or, if they aren’t responsive, you can lock the device remotely so it isn’t of use to the student (or anyone, for that matter).

Device Protection: How to Be the Superhero Who Protects Your Schools from Cyberattacks

The global education sector has seen a 20% increase in cyberattacks as criminals exploit newly implemented virtual learning environments. Threats range from nuisance adware to severe malware like trojans and backdoors, but the most common, by far, is ransomware. The education sector was the most affected by ransomware of all business sectors in 2018 and ’19, according to a report from Malwarebytes Labs. 

Schools have become enticing targets for attackers because of stored personal information on students and teachers, and security updates often aren’t installed on devices that have been loaned out for remote learning. Furthermore, students and teachers are frequent victims of phishing scams. They typically use simple passwords across multiple services, making them susceptible to credential harvesting and password-spraying attacks. When hackers infiltrate your devices, they lock them up so they can’t be used for learning. Suddenly, the capacity to simply teach students is lost.

Like a superhero who fights off the bad guy before the villain has a chance to steal the money, SentinelOne can defeat intruders before they hijack your devices. SentinelOne enables your school to automatically detect and manage devices as they join your network and extends protection and control to cloud-based assets and applications running on them. Lenovo pre-enables SentinelOne on all laptops, desktops, and Chromebooks, so that you can ensure a seamless and engaging experience for students, whether they’re learning face-to-face or remotely.

SentinelOne is the only cybersecurity solution encompassing AI-powered prevention, detection, response, and hunting across endpoints and cloud workloads in a single autonomous platform. It gives your IT team full transparency into everything happening across the network at machine speed so that you can defeat every attack at every stage of the threat lifecycle.

By autonomously detecting and responding to attacks, SentinelOne helps mitigate limited human resources. This helps focus the attention of your busy IT team on the most severe and impactful security issues. If an attacker successfully infiltrates a device, SentinelOne can rollback the device to a healthy state, including decrypting encrypted files. 

Online Safety

Your school is charged with taking care of the whole student, not just shoving information into their head. So, you likely want to know when (not if) your students are engaging in inappropriate behavior or looking at a site with inappropriate content. 

But how can your teachers and administrators know what’s going on in a student’s head—especially in a remote learning situation? How can you supervise collaborative and online communications? How can you protect students from inappropriate or illicit online content at home or school?

With an increasingly encrypted Web, it’s trickier to get the information you need to protect students. Getting search term reports, creating selective access to Google services, and tapping into YouTube controls all require SSL decryption. But more than 60% of school IT personnel say they aren’t decrypting SSL at all. Completely blocking YouTube and social media is always an option, but those platforms can often be used for learning in today’s (in-person and remote) classrooms. That’s why 40% of schools allow YouTube access for everyone.

Even when schools use filtering on their devices and networks, that filtering usually has limitations. They typically only block about half of the graphic content on the Web. They often send too much noise—and too many false alerts—when trying to analyze websites in real time. And often, schools have to rely on separate filtering solutions for when devices are on campus or off, which adds complexities to the process.

Why paint this gloomy picture? Because we know how you can get help to erase that picture and replace it with one where students are safe and you have the knowledge to help them stay that way. 

Lenovo is committed to helping schools through this digital transformation that is required for educational continuity. That’s why they’re partnering with Lightspeed to provide schools worldwide with an ecosystem of cloud-based solutions with reliable filtering, analytics, and device management tools. This includes advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor, interpret, and flag warning signs in emails, Google docs, social media posts, Web searches, Microsoft Teams and Meetings chat—really, nearly everywhere students are interacting online.

Your IT team can use Lightspeed’s AI to automatically block millions of inappropriate, harmful, and unknown sites, images, and videos. Its SmartPlay’s patented agents and mature database effectively block millions of inappropriate videos, thumbnails, and “recommended by” YouTube content so that YouTube can be a safe teaching tool. Customizable policy controls enable admins to set parameters and selectively permit content without being overly restrictive.What would you discover—and prevent—with Absolute, SentinelOne, or Lightspeed on your Lenovo devices? Now may be the time to find out. Read more about Lenovo’s best-in-class solution suite in the Solutions for Education Catalog.

Delia DeCourcy is an education leader with over 25 years of experience in leading transformation, developing dynamic programs, and effectively managing projects to achieve desired outcomes.