The Risks of Insecure File-Sharing Platforms for School Boards

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
School boards may see file-sharing platforms as an efficient and simplified way to exchange or share documents. However, use of this technology makes boards and districts vulnerable to cybersecurity risks, like malware, viruses, data loss, phishing scams, or the exposure of sensitive information.

While utilizing this type of technology to share and access documents or other pertinent materials can seem simple, easy, and secure, school boards can find themselves under attack or with confidential information exposed. Boards may be unaware of the lack of security associated with file-sharing applications and what this may mean for their school district.

What is file-sharing?

File-sharing platforms are software applications that allow school boards to send and access files in a shared storage space in the cloud. In these platforms, the owner and/or sender of the files can establish permissions to determine who is allowed to access the files.

File-sharing apps support collaboration in real-time. There are many free file-sharing applications that most individuals are familiar with. While these platforms can be enticing, there are not meant to support confidential or sensitive data as they lack security and other features that can protect private information from cyberattacks.

Risks associated with using insecure platforms

School districts have become major targets for cyber attackers. School boards have a responsibility to care for, protect, and secure the sensitive information related to their school district.

Cyber attacks on districts are not only launched through viruses used to destroy school networks; file-sharing platforms with lax security features pose just as great of a risk to school boards and their districts. As technology has advanced, so have cyber criminals in their efforts.

  1. Sensitive Data Exposure

Personal information, large financial transactions, and other confidential and sensitive information can make school boards lucrative targets for sensitive data exposure.

Using file-sharing apps, an individual may be giving other users access to sensitive or confidential information, even unknowingly. Once information has been exposed to unauthorized people, the results can be devastating and irreversible.

Cloud-based file-sharing applications can put information at risk of being accessed, viewed, and shared by other individuals. These incidents of data exposure can even be unintentional or a result of the weaknesses of the security in the file-sharing application.
  1. Data Loss

Documents or materials stored on cloud-based file-sharing apps can be accessed, reviewed, blocked, and even deleted by the application provider.

It is vital for districts to have a backup system in place to restore full performance and function in the event of sensitive data exposure or loss. Data loss may seem simple or harmless compared to sensitive data exposure, but data loss can be just as devastating and overwhelming.
  1. Vulnerability to Attacks

Some file-sharing apps may ask for permissions that can open a user's firewall to transmit files. However, this can give cyber attackers access to your computer or allow them to attack your computer by taking advantage of any exposures that may exist through the file-sharing platforms. There are even some applications that can modify and penetrate a user's firewalls, without the user's knowledge.

In 2017, many Google Docs users were under a cyber attack that found its way into schools. Google users were receiving an e-mail that was disguised to look like an invitation to join a Google Doc from someone they know. However, when the user clicked on the link to open the file the individual was directed to grant access to an app that mimicked Google Docs, but was actually a program that sends spam e-mails to everyone the user has e-mailed.

Choosing a secure file-sharing platform

Secure file-sharing applications can be extremely useful in supporting board mobility and modern governance. Utilizing the right technology, the work performed by the board can be seamless and easily accessible from anywhere.

School boards have the opportunity to utilize technological tools in order to not miss any opportunities for effective and strategic decision making. Information and materials can be easily shared and accessed seamlessly through a secure board management platform that features file-sharing, meaning board members continuously are 'in the know' and can perform their best work for the district and community.

When school boards are utilizing file-sharing through board management software, it is imperative that they look at the features and capabilities of the software in terms of securing sensitive data. The software should promote and support strong cybersecurity practices to protect sensitive data related to the public school district and its students.

Sometimes the cost that comes with information protection can be steep, but the cost of losing sensitive data, especially identifying student information, is also high and irreversible. This lack of preparedness is a key factor in how school districts have become targets for cyber attacks.

The investment in software that effectively and efficiently secures sensitive data related to the district and its students pays for itself in protecting from damages suffered from cyber attacks. When it comes to sensitive data the information should be stored on a private secure server and on sites with high-level encryption (256-bit encryption is the strongest level of security currently available).

Community, a Diligent brand, is a secure board management software. Unlike many board portal services, Community boasts physically secure servers (that are video monitored) and 256-bit encryption, the strongest level of encryption currently available. These elements ensure privacy and security for your board's most confidential and sensitive data. Additionally, board portal users can securely access information from anywhere and any device.

Community's board management software encrypts all data and has a daily backup service to help mitigate risks related to sensitive data loss or exposure. These features are vital to school boards and secure file-sharing. Ensuring that your board's information is protected and secure means that your board has more time and energy to spend on other important issues.

Leveraging a board management software, like Community, helps school boards mitigate the risks associated with insecure file-sharing platforms. Community's security features support and promote cybersecurity practices that protect the sensitive information of your district and your students, while still providing the school board with a seamless and streamlined tool to share and access pertinent district information.