2nd June 2023 All Posts

Eight Data Security Tips for Early Years Childcare Providers in 2023 and Beyond

There is an increasing need for IT teams in the early years sector to ensure that confidential information remains safe and secure. This is why our head of infrastructure and security, Greg Reed, recently explored the topic with Teach Early Years — sharing his eight top tips for IT teams within the sector to acknowledge and action.

If you missed the original article, you can catch up below:

The early years data security landscape

As the world continues to become increasingly reliant upon technology to complete everyday tasks, it’s never been more important for businesses to have measures in place that help protect devices and systems.

In the early years childcare sector, specifically, this is vital for safeguarding personal, confidential, and sensitive information – whether about staff, children, their families, or the organisation – against online criminals. Such steps help to prevent accidental damage and loss too. 

In 2021, nurseries and childminders received guidance from the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and were warned about the threat of cyber-attacks. The Government called for a more secure approach to sharing information.

It encouraged childcare staff to acknowledge the online risks out there and explained how – regardless of the size and nature of a setting – its routine information is valuable to criminals.

However, the ICO Security Report recently named the education and childcare sector as the second worst offender for data breaches in the UK – accounting for almost 1 in 7 cases since 2019.

This is why it’s very important for settings to reflect on the security measures they have in place, and ensure they are as protected as they can be.

The early years data security landscape

Be savvy with passwordsBe sure to use secure, complex passwords and store them safely. Where possible, implement two-factor authentication, too. This means that to access the data, a user must confirm their identity via two different forms of identification. These could include passwords, pin codes, or even biometric logins, such as a fingerprint.

Set up individual logins – Each authorised person should have their own credentials so that any actions completed by an account are tracked to a single user. It’s important not to share accounts, as it becomes difficult to trace who is accessing or changing what. On a related note, it’s also important to constantly review which accounts are being used. If a staff member leaves the business, their profile should be removed or disabled.

Remember to updateIt’s crucial to ensure that any devices and applications used to access child data are running the latest version of the supported operating system and kept up to date, to benefit from the most robust levels of security. The same also applies to the antivirus software installed on all devices. If upgrades are missed, this can potentially create a vulnerability and entry gateway for hackers.

Utilise the ‘lock’ functionWhen you press ctrl + alt + delete, a screen appears with ‘lock’ as an option. This should be used any time a member of staff is away from their device, so that child data cannot be accessed inappropriately by unauthorised users.

Think about device storage and positioningKeeping devices safe when not in use should be carefully considered. Stashing them in a locked cupboard overnight can help to prevent theft, for example. Also, using a screen filter or positioning any monitors away from windows and doors ensures screens cannot be seen by passers-by.

Tailor staff permissionsBy implementing individual permissions settings, makes sure that data is shared only with authorised staff.

Educate usersThe biggest weakness in any system is often human error, whether that be due to misconfiguration of systems, or a colleague being deceived by a phishing email. Giving all staff security induction training and providing annual refresher courses can reduce the risk of security incidents and data breaches dramatically.

Back up information – Whether business-critical data such as invoices or fee payments, or sensitive information such as contact details, it is vital to back this up regularly, so it is not lost in the event of a natural disaster, theft of equipment, or data ransom incident.

Also, if using nursery management software, be sure to partner with a leading provider to benefit from the highest levels of security credentials and protection – keeping your digital data safe with passwords and encrypted back-ups – while minimising unnecessary paper trails, which put important data at risk.

Data security will forever be an incredibly important topic within the early years sector, and these tips can go some way in helping settings to keep their data and systems safe. 

Data Security in the Early Years

Download our free report to find out how nursery managers and owners handle data compliance and security in their settings.
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About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare