Google Drive security: Is your student data safe in the cloud?

Google Drive security: Is your student data safe in the cloud?

Cloud storage is a valuable resource. But is it safe? The answer is not quite so simple.

On the one hand, a storage application like Google Drive eliminates the need to dedicate and maintain physical storage servers throughout your district. But on the other hand, it places sensitive data outside your network perimeter.

This makes it easy and convenient to access the information for students, faculty, staff, etc. But it also has the potential to make access to the information easier for people who shouldn’t have access to it.

With cybercriminals targeting schools at an unprecedented rate, it’s only a matter of time before your Google domain is put to the test. For this reason, you should be sure that your cloud security is up to the challenge.

Not sure where to start? Do not worry. In this guide, we explain what you need to know about Google Drive security, including why you need to protect your cloud storage and what you can do to keep sensitive data under lock and key.

Why is it important to protect Google Drive?

Before the pandemic, the education sector’s cloud migration was more like a leisurely stroll. But ever since COVID-19 upended classroom learning and necessitated an external solution, many schools have picked up the pace. Today, even after students are back on campus, cloud-based edtech tools have become as essential to education as notebooks and pencils.

The vast majority of districts operate in the cloud, according to EdWeek Research. In fact, 84% of schools use Google Workspace, making it the nation’s most popular edtech cloud service provider (and, by extension, the most popular cloud storage provider as well).

Google Workspace provides access to a suite of valuable Google services that together enable a modern educational experience, including:

But here’s the problem: If just a single Google account is compromised, there’s little to stop a cybercriminal from gaining access to a gold mine of sensitive data. Why? Because all the account’s information is kept in a centralized place (ie Google Drive).

In 2022, Google limited school districts to just 100 TB of cloud storage. However, there is still enough storage space for 100 million documents, 8 million presentations or 400,000 hours of video, according to Google. Between every Drive file, folder and document, there’s almost no telling what type of personal information could fall into the wrong hands.

If your school falls victim to a data loss incident, whether it’s a malicious breach or accidental leak, the consequences can be devastating:

  • Damage to reputation: Parents will not soon forget when their child’s personal information is exposed to the public, which can also tarnish the reputation of the school or district in general.
  • Deviation: Schools are subject to strict data security and privacy laws, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If a student’s personal information is compromised, your district could face serious legal liability.
  • Financial damage: Cyber ​​attacks are costly events. In 2021, ransomware incidents cost US schools over $3.56 billion in downtime alone.
  • Student Safety: Most importantly, data loss incidents put students at risk. When sensitive data is leaked to the public, students often become victims of identity theft, fraud, extortion and even stalking, cyberbullying or harassment.
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<h3><span class=Is Google Drive secure?

The short answer is yes – Google Drive is a secure cloud storage service. Although theoretically breakable, the underlying infrastructure on which Google Drive is built has never been hacked to date.

As one of the world’s largest information technology companies, Google has access to cutting-edge cloud security capabilities. As a Google Workspace for Education customer, your district benefits from being able to rely on these capabilities instead of having them in-house to maintain on-premises servers.

However, this does not mean that your Google Drive account is impervious to data loss. In fact, even with Google’s built-in security features, you still have an obligation to protect data at the end of the relationship.

What most school districts don’t realize is that Google Workspace operates under a shared liability agreement (as is the case with most cloud service providers). This means that some security features are the responsibility of Google, while others are the responsibility of the customer (your district).

Google Drive encryption

Google Drive’s hallmark security measure is its ability to encrypt cloud data. In other words, it converts your personal information into secret code so that it cannot be read by anyone without the necessary encryption keys.

Google Drive security includes a 256-bit encryption for files in transit (such as a Drive file shared with a classmate) and 128-bit encryption keys for data at rest. Google automatically increases the amount of encryption applied to files moved through Google Workspace, which is when they are most vulnerable.

According to Google, encryption has the following advantages:

  • Helps ensure that if sensitive data falls into the hands of an attacker, it cannot be read
  • Reduces the attack surface by letting you focus on protecting the encryption keys instead of having to protect all data at once
  • Acts as a chokepoint because centralized encryption keys create a single place where access to data is enforced and audited

In the case of Google services, you still need to manage service-side security measures such as access control, configuration and event handling. Without proper cloud security configurations in place, sensitive data remains at great risk.

5 security risks you need to know about

It’s important that you understand where your vulnerabilities are when it comes to Google Drive security. Below are some of the most common security risks that schools experience in Google Drive:

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1. Improper file sharing

Students and staff often share documents with each other to collaborate on projects and carry out important tasks. However, incorrect file sharing is often the cause of privacy breaches or accidental data leaks.

For example, a student may inadvertently share a Google Drive link with another student, unaware that the Drive file contains personal information, such as a social security number. Or teachers may mistakenly include the sharing link in the body of an out-of-district email.

In September 2021, a security update from Google attempted to repair this vulnerability by adding a resource key to share links. Users who have not previously viewed a file will not be able to access it without first using a URL containing the resource key. Despite this improvement, you still need to keep a close eye on how your users share sensitive documents.

2. Third Party Apps

According to K12 SIX, 55% of school data loss incidents are initiated by third-party vendors—companies that provide cloud apps to your school district. If students download an unapproved cloud application to your Google Workspace cloud, it could expose your district to unnecessary risk.

3. Phishing attacks

A phishing attack is a social engineering tactic used by hackers to gain access to your sensitive data. By impersonating a legitimate user or authority company, they attempt to trick students and staff into sharing personal information or login credentials. With this information in hand, they get unfettered access to Google Drive and your other Google services.

4. Malware

Malware is short for malicious software and more commonly known as a virus. Hackers often embed malware in fake cloud apps and email attachments, hoping that students will unknowingly fall into the trap by either installing the app or downloading a file. Some cybercriminals even attempt to spread malware by embedding malicious links in Google Doc comments.

5. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that steals data or revokes access to important applications in exchange for a ransom. For example, The Los Angeles Unified School District was the victim of a ransom attack in September 2022. When the district refused to pay, a hacker group called Vice Society leaked 500 GB of data.

[FREE]    Google Workspace Security Audit.  Learn more and claim >>”/></span></span></p>
<h3><span class=How to secure Google Drive

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and daring every day. At the same time, the school district clouds lack protection. Fortunately, there are many basic steps you can take to improve Google Drive security.

1. Use two-factor authentication

In addition to encryption, Google Drive is equipped with secure login options such as two-factor authentication (2FA). When you enable 2FA, each user in your district will be required to provide two pieces of information before they can access their Google Account. This can include a combination of password, SMS confirmation or a one-time code.

2. Backup data regularly

Hackers are targeting your data. Ransomware hackers are holding it hostage. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s one that makes all the difference when cybercriminals force you to pay huge amounts of money to get your data back.

Backing up information to a secure storage location ensures that this cannot happen. With a backup copy of your most important files in safe keeping, you can be sure that even if the information falls into the wrong hands, you can quickly restore your systems.

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3. Classify your data

Data classification is the process of sorting information into categories based on sensitivity. This allows you to work with data more efficiently and focus your security efforts on the information most critical to your district. You can even automate data classification using the right cloud security platform.

4. Remove risky access to your data

When it comes to data security, access is everything. That means you need to properly vet third-party providers for apps that could put your data at risk. Go through your cloud environment and remove anyone who doesn’t belong or isn’t authorized.

5. Limit file sharing and user permissions

Administrators have the ability to control which apps and Google services students and staff have access to, including Google Drive. Enforce a policy of least privileged access: a model where users can only access files required to perform their job or complete their assignments.

6. Automate abnormal account behavior alerts

Have you ever noticed that a particular Google account is logging in from an abnormal location? Unless that user is on vacation, that’s probably the sign of an account takeover.

It’s important to identify signs of suspicious activity, such as users sending lateral phishing emails or downloading massive amounts of data at once. Automated solutions can speed up this process and make it easy to investigate strange behavior before it’s too late.

Review Google Drive today

Most school districts do not have cloud security. In fact, our research shows that 80% of cybersecurity budgets are not allocated to protecting cloud data.

This means that the majority of school districts also lack visibility in the cloud domain. Simply put, they have no idea of ​​the full extent of their cloud-based vulnerabilities, which are a major threat to student data.

Fortunately, ManagedMethods has you covered. When you activate an account, our cloud security platform will automatically scan Google Workspace and identify risks, such as:

  • Phishing and malware in emails, files and shared folders
  • Risky sharing behavior, such as emailing credit card numbers, global link sharing, and more
  • Unauthorized third-party apps with risky OAuth access permissions
  • Abnormal behavior that may indicate a compromised Google Account

Now you can request your security check for Google Workspace (and/or Microsoft 365) absolutely free! It only takes a few minutes to set up and can save you a world of damage down the road.

Free Google Workspace Security Audit

The post Google Drive Security: Is Your Student Data Safe In The Cloud? appeared first on ManagedMethods.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from ManagedMethods written by Alexa Sander. Read the original post at:

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