27 Apr 21 Chromebooks Stolen from Pennsylvania School District
Missing Chromebook laptops shed light on the importance of enacting efficient security protocols when running one-to-one programs.
Between April 6 and 7, 21 HP Chromebooks went missing from the Northwestern Lehigh School District’s receiving building in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. While state police are investigating the incident, they have released minimal information about the cost of the computers or details of how the equipment may have been stolen.
Chromebook thefts in schools aren’t unheard of, but the substantial loss of assets in the Lehigh incident points to a major security flaw. When purchasing expensive technology, district administrators face the challenge of approaching security from virtual and physical perspectives. Administrators immediately invest time, staff, and resources into fortifying school networks against intrusion, educating students on proper technology use, and outfitting devices with damage-resistant Chromebook covers from specialty case manufacturers like Volume Cases.
But how well do school districts prepare for onsite storage before a Chromebook shipment? When Brandon Phenix, the Director of Blended Learning for ReNEW Schools, took charge of a one-to-one pilot for the 2013-2014 school year, he was blindsided when four shipping containers arrived by truck. As a novice to large-scale computer deployment, Phenix hadn’t considered where or how to safely store the 1,200 Chromebooks he was responsible for.
Tips for Secure Chromebook Storage
Phenix eventually decided the best option was to split up the devices and store them in multiple rooms throughout the building. Separating the Chromebooks strengthens protection against burglary by 1) limiting an intruder’s ability to locate all your devices and 2) making it difficult to quickly transport the computers out of the building without being seen, especially if repeat trips are necessary.
Another challenge for administrators is limiting access to computer storage spaces. Schools may not have armored vaults like a bank, but they often have windowless storage closets specifically designed for expensive inventory, such as lab equipment. Administrators should store Chromebooks in rooms only accessible by door and consider upgrading the door-lock systems to security codes, rather than using basic keys.
Of course, the greatest risks come from storing Chromebooks in heavily trafficked buildings. Everyone from students to relatives to visitors have opportunities to scope the layout of a school and observe daily operations, so it’s impossible to keep the knowledge of the computers’ location completely under wraps. However, administrators are more likely to avoid breaches if access codes or keys are restricted to a small group, such as technology directors and IT specialists.
To prevent costly theft, administrators must design a security plan well before Chromebooks arrive. Take time to evaluate a building’s weak and strong points, and determine the procedures teachers must follow to reserve computer carts. Will they have unhindered access to the storage room or pre-register and have computer carts delivered by an authorized handler?
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