Another Student Data Privacy Act That Doesn’t Protect Student Data or Privacy

This weekend, the New York Times published a story mentioning the Obama administration’s focus on online privacy and security. As part of their initiative… the administration intends to introduce and pass legislation about breach notification and student data security. 

From the NYT: 

“The president will also propose the Student Data Privacy Act, which would prohibit technology firms from profiting from information collected in schools as teachers adopt tablets, online services and Internet-connected software, officials said. And he will announce voluntary agreements by companies to safeguard home energy data and to provide easy access to credit scores as an “early warning system” for identity theft.”

The story mentions that this a reaction to the industry’s attempt to self-regulate with a privacy pledge this past October, and that the legislation which will be similar to California’s SOPIPA, which prohibits targeting students with online marketing and advertising, selling student information, profiling students based on data collected, and requiring companies to put security measures in place to protect student data. (While security measures are required to protect student data, SOPIPA set no bare minimum security standards for education technology companies, and did not require companies to disclose their security measures to users.) Continue reading

How to Teach Computer Security Skills

This piece was originally published here by Educating Modern Learners.


With increasing adoption of computer technologies, schools must do a better job addressing two important issues: privacy and security. Here, education security advocate Jessy Irwin offers some first steps in learning about security. And this isn’t just a lesson for students — it’s for teachers and school leaders and parents as well. 

If digital citizens have learned anything from the web in 2014, it is that this year is the year of the hacker. While malicious black hat hackers compromised hundreds of millions of accounts across the web, their ethical, white hat counterparts uncovered code flaws like Heartbleed and Shellshock that weakened parts of the critical infrastructure of the web. In this new web order, the question is no longer “if” you will be hacked on the web, but “when.” In many schools, the primary goal of digital literacy education is to give students the skills they need to find, remix and create content on the ever-expanding worldwide web. In the quest to unlock the potential of the web and its troves of boundless content for learners, however, many educators overlook the weakest aspect of digital literacy for the average web user: security. Continue reading

On Resolutions: Two Lists that Changed My Life

As a rule, I tend to avoid writing about myself in public— but some rules are meant to be broken. As 2014 draws to a close, I couldn’t help but write about what has been the absolute best and most favorite year of my life.

For most of my life, I’ve failed miserably at New Years Resolutions. There was the year when I got all excited (with a million other people) about learning how to code… and ended up being a Codecademy dropout in no time. There was another year where I was going to get back into running again but, … surprise! It’s actually really hard to get motivated to wake up early when you are a night owl and run through the pain of shin splints and past injuries in the frigid, icy cold of winter. Frustrated with my history of failed resolutions (we only really keep to them for about 6 weeks anyway), last year I decided to forego the tradition of setting myself up for failure for the first couple of months of a new year and try something entirely new.

Instead of making resolutions, I decided to make a list. Continue reading

On #edsec: Education’s massive security problem

Dinosaurs are a very important part of the security conference experience.

Dinosaurs: a very important part of the security conference experience.

A few months ago, I gave a talk at BSidesLV on the state of edtech security. My talk, #edsec: Hacking for Education isn’t a hacker talk in the truest of senses— I had no l33t, sophisticated hacks to show off, no beautiful backdoors into well-maintained code to make my point. Instead, I went the route of discussing the lack of security standards, the dire state of security awareness among educators, the deplorable state of school infrastructure, and the security-averse attitude of developers within education technology.

I should have written this post months ago— I am thankful for alot of people who helped me get through my first-ever talk at a national conference— but I’ve been struggling to overcome an awful, awful feeling that in the pit of my stomach after I finished my week away at hacker summer camp. After being surrounded by people who discussed securing the critical infrastructures that make our web work, protecting medical devices from attack, and preparing for the Internet of Things that is to come, I realized that I didn’t go far enough.  Continue reading

A rant: Twitter, your 2-factor Authentication Sucks, or Why #Brands Get Hacked On Twitter

For the past six years, I’ve worked in online marketing. As such, I have been the holder of ALL the keys to the social media accounts for many brands I have worked for and worked with in the Silicon Valley and beyond. My biggest nightmare as the holder of the keys is waking up in the morning to find my company on the frontpage of Mashable as the latest of the #brands (I mean that hashtag ironically) who had a social media account hacked via phishing, spearphishing, or something worse. To prevent the worst from happening, I’ve implemented a variety of multi-layered security strategies over the past few years  to protect myself and my brand’s self to foil any attempts of account takeover.

Today, I logged in to my brand account to reconfigure one of these layers of security on Twitter. When I finally got to the spot in account settings where I can enable 2-factor authentication, however, I was informed that Twitter only allows use of 2factor authentication with one phone number.

Thanks, Twitter but no: THIS IS NOT OKAY. Continue reading

This is bullshit: A rant on hacking, passwords, security and usability.

Over the weekend, a major news story broke about an iCloud attack in which hackers broke into the accounts of 100 female celebrities to steal compromising nude pictures. Every. single. time there’s a “hacking” incident, the media coverage is awful— and the security advice is even worse. Case in point:

In all of the discussion of the incident,

Continue reading

On safety + personal space while being a woman

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Last night, I took to Twitter to yell about something complicated, anger-inducing, emotional and downright frightening: the recent, persistent violation of my personal space that I’ve endured in San Francisco. Sometimes when I have a problem that needs solving, quick, short bursts of concise text help me get to the center of the issue: in this case, I’ve lived here for a few years now, but have never felt as physically threatened and violated as I have in finding my way through its streets as of late.

Until just a few weeks ago, I’ve been lucky– I’ve walked the streets of this city relatively unimpeded for 3.5 years, purposely blending in and not sticking out from the crowd. After yet again having a person lay his hands on me without my permission and without good reason for the sixth time in a month yesterday evening, I couldn’t bottle it up anymore.

So I let loose… Continue reading

This is why your “Women in Tech” event sucks

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A few weeks ago, my friend Leah wrote a thoughtful post about how to get more women into technology and STEM careers. In her post, she says:

Enticing women to tech isn’t about making it “diva-fied” or “girlification.”… Reducing women in tech from engineers to “web divas” pushes us into superficial territory and marginalizes our skills and contributions.  Instead of looking up to women in tech as problem-solvers and visionaries we get looked down upon as interlopers far from home.

Women are not all the same.  We don’t all want pink and flowers and glitter.  We don’t all think the same. We aren’t one dimensional creatures who will be drawn to the tech world because someone sent us a flier with pretty purple letters and butterflies.  We don’t all enter the tech world the same way and any strategy that relies on all women being alike is doomed to fail.

Continue reading

A must-read for educators: privacy, ethics, and educator responsibility in #edtech

There are some exciting tools out there that allow students to do amazing things, but test them out first of all with a dummy account and cast a critical eye over the ethics of the service before you encourage students to start using it.

If you’re an educator, this post by Cameron Hocking is a great place to begin thinking critically about the tools you use and the responsibility you have in protecting your students data: Educational Conferences and the ethics of EdTech.