It’s Time To Publish Your Materials Online, And Here’s How To Do It Securely
Some instructors hesitate transitioning their materials online for fear of exploitation. But I believe you shouldn’t let this fear keep you from progress! In this article, I explain the reality of the risks, how they can affect you, and what you can do to mitigate them when you want to publish your materials online.
How To Publish Your Materials Online – Securely
Stories of “hacking” have become commonplace in the headlines. It’s an issue that has affected powerful corporations, political seats, and average citizens. Cyber breaches are a valid concern for nearly everyone. How does this affect those in education? What happens if you want to publish your materials online?
As a former computer security professional with 30 years of experience in the computer software industry, I always tell people that their information can be stolen no matter what precautions they take.
The two questions you should really be asking yourself is: How likely is it to happen in the first place? And, what can I do to protect myself?
How Real Are The Risks?
In the non-virtual world, there are risks with just about everything. Whether you’re playing sports, driving, or walking down stairs – we know things can go wrong and try to implement the most appropriate safeguards.
When it comes to protecting digital information, people’s kneejerk reaction is to buy a firewall, encryption, antivirus software, and so forth. While this is a good idea, it is just as important to determine what your greatest risks are and realistic consequences if they aren’t avoided.
Doing thorough research before making a purchase will serve you better in the long run.
A good place to start is identifying what materials need to be protected, who you need to protect them from, and reasons why they would want to steal it in the first place.
For example, let’s say one of your competitors wants to gain a market advantage. If your content can give them that edge, they might steal it in an attempt to either leak it to the public or outright sell it illegally.
Frankly, no matter how many layers of security features you put in, if there’s someone out there who really wants your content, there is a fair chance they can steal it.
However, if the reward of stealing the material isn’t worth their time and effort, they will likely go after a different target.
Which brings me to my next point.
Is It Even Likely To Happen?
After you’ve identified what content could be targeted, why, and by whom, you’ll need to consider if hackers can actually profit off of it.
If you really think about it, a cunning thief will carefully considers what will give them the most profit. If they don’t see value in something, they won’t waste their time.
So, how much money do you think someone could really make off of your materials?
And consider your prospective customers. Are they more likely to come to the original source (your site) to obtain your contents, or visit an untrusted, dishonest source?
Let’s do a flashback to the past for a moment.
Remember when MP3s were first released? Record companies initially resisted the trend because they thought it would threaten their sales on CDs. But as MP3s became wildly successful, the music industry had no other choice but to adopt the technology.
Were people still people sharing music and movies illegally? Indeed. However, billions of dollars are still being spent towards online legal purchases. If you set your items at the right price, your customers are more likely pay for legal access.
What Measures Can I Take?
If you are going to publish your materials online and would like to implement some form of security, here are some simple steps to take.
- Upload PDFs, not Word Docs or PowerPoints.
PDF formatting discourages attempts to steal content. After all, you can’t copy and paste from it. And is someone really going to attempt to re-type all of your materials? I think not.
- Upload contents to trusted websites.
Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are usually a safe choice. If you are working with an IT company, ask what resources they use to store your files. Don’t choose a site that stores information in home office servers. EDUonGo uses Amazon S2 as their storage solution.
- Require people to sign up before accessing your content.
Hackers often use Bots to gather information for them. Requiring a login for all users will guard your content from Bots –including Google– that crawl the internet for valuable data.
- Recruit a cybersecurity expert.
If your budget allows, you could hire a cybersecurity expert. They keep updated on the latest technology trends and can help implement security measures that are right for you. However, keep in mind that the more security measures you add, the harder it becomes for legitimate customers to access your content.
Mobile technology and the internet are amazing tools for teaching and learning. They help us scale in ways nearly impossible before. While online delivery isn’t necessarily the mode for everyone, worrying that your contents get stolen should not keep you from moving forward.