Ensuring security and privacy in Virtual Classroom Systems – A primer for the 21st Century
While privacy has always been an issue of particular concern in communications, in the era of remote learning and virtual classrooms, it has taken an even more prominent place in commercial discussions. There is a growing concern that content of an institution, which is in essence its intellectual property, does not leave the precincts of the institution. And that is a very valid concern. Vendors are often bombarded with queries about privacy. Therefore lets look at some common issues revolving around privacy.
Firstly, the thing about SSL. Also, known as Secure Sockets Layer, this protocol establishes a hyper-secured connection between two nodes on a network using public and private keys. To put in very simple words, think of two people communicating using a coded language and the code of this language is known only to these two people. Although oversimplified, it helps you grasp the nature of such a security protocol and why it is so necessary to have such a protocol in place in your virtual classroom software. Certificates are issued under the protocol to calibrate, match and authenticate the identity of the sender/receiver and the data.
Secondly, the Double Blowfish Algorithm. The lexicon is daunting but the mechanism is super intuitive. The algorithm’s usage of 64-bit blocks makes it quite robust against common phishing and social engineering attacks. Although no algorithm in the world is ‘un-hackable’, so to speak. This is as far as it comes in terms of a robust software architecture for virtual classroom systems. Always look out for this or a similar algorithm that ciphers your virtual connection and adds an extra layer of complexity to the connection, making it even less vulnerable to attacks.
Thirdly, the all important – human element. There is an old adage in the Information Technology sector – no technology on the face of this earth will be able to comprehensively cover for all of the human flaws. There is an inherent risk in having humans manage sensitive data, connections and content. This problem has finally peaked in the sense that Over The Top platforms whose bread and butter is content distribution, are running against time and tide of the free information age to secure their content. From password sharing to screen capturing, there is truly no dearth to people and entities getting hold of content and data in less-than-legal-ways. Platforms whose valuations run in billions of dollars have found it incredibly difficult to cut these nefarious activities, what hope might hapless educational institutions have in such a scenario?
If you lived in Gotham, one would have readily advised you to ‘embrace the chaos’. But you don’t. As long as the cyber age is running its course, the society will almost always be inundated with cyber thieves. There is no avoiding them. The idea is therefore to embrace a little bit of openness. Barring extra-sensitive information that forms your IPR, a little bit of leakage must be expected. And that is a very real issue for research, engineering, training, medical and higher educational institutions. The scientific community zealously protects its proprietary information, not without a reason. Thus, the only way to have a 360-degree solution to the problem is to keep evolving. And by evolving, it is implied that the content that is to be shared in the virtual classroom is kept fresh with sufficient doses of contextual and instructional innovation. And when that starts to happen, you will truly enter the proverbial Garden of Eden as far as privacy is concerned. To bring it full circle, let’s conclude with this question – It is easy to steal content, but how do you steal an innovating human?
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