Google Chat monitoring will help you stop data loss and a variety of cyberattacks against your students

Many teachers and students use Google Chat, which makes Google Chat monitoring a requirement for school districts for a variety of reasons. Particularly after the transition to remote learning when COVID-19 struck, Google Chat is now a more popular tool for communication among students, faculty, and staff alike. The more students and staff use Chat, the more likely it is that they will share Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or financial information that exposes stakeholders and districts to cybercrime, identity theft, and other K-12 cybersecurity compliance issues.

There are also cyber safety reasons for establishing Google Chat monitoring in your district. Campus safety teams often find that students use their school Google tools to communicate distress and safety signals with their peers. Sometimes, they’re just using it as a journal for themselves. Further, students often share inappropriate and harmful content with each other using Google Chat. This means that your school district takes the risk of being out of compliance with CIPA regulations. Google Chat CIPA compliance is another emerging issue for districts using G Suite for Education and other EdTech apps.

All this means that school districts need to do Google chat monitoring in order to protect their students, faculty, staff, financial health, and other community stakeholders. It needs to be addressed as an element of implementing G Suite security best practices in your IT team’s workflow.

What are the Risks if You Don’t Monitor Google Chat?

Student safety is a big risk. Students could participate in cyberbullying. Students could share thoughts of suicide and plans to harm themselves. As you may know, student self-harm and suicide rates are showing an upward trend. The issue of student self-harm detection is gaining in importance. Chat interactions could also promote discrimination based on race, religion, sexual preference, and more.

If you haven’t heard of sextortion, you’re lucky. Today, sextortion is happening more than you might think. More and more children are participating in sexting, where they send explicit photos of themselves to other students. Very often, that type of material gets broadcast on the internet. Cybercriminals have sadly found a way to profit from that trend.

The cybercriminal threatens to make a student’s explicit material public if the student doesn’t provide additional photos of a sexual nature, offer sexual favors, or pay money for their silence. Thorn is an organization that fights against child sex trafficking. Their research indicates that 45% of the sextortion threats are actually carried out. This particular type of cybercrime is in its infancy, but growing rapidly.

The other risk category is data security. Anything that is shared on Google Chat has the potential to be accessed by hackers. Hackers can easily use PII data and district financial data shared on Chat to compromise your operations. Teachers, Human Resources, and others share PII or district financial data on Google Chat without thinking about the consequences.

With so much focus on phishing and Gmail security, overall Google cloud security issues such as Google Chat monitoring (and Google Drive security) tend to fall off the radar. Furthermore, Chat tends to be a more informal environment that can lull users into a mindset that doesn’t think a lot about cybersecurity. School district IT teams need to take this potential breach vector seriously.

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Google Chat Monitoring Using Google’s Audit Log

Among the G Suite for Education security features available to admins, Google Chat monitoring isn’t among the more obvious ones. There isn’t quite a specific tool or dashboard designed for Chat alerts like in monitoring Google Meet or configuring G Suite data loss prevention.

IT admins who want to monitor Google Chats will need to upgrade to G Suite Enterprise to use the Audit Log. Google provides a log of all user conversations and activities in the chat room. Admins can access the Google Chat Audit Log from your Google Admin Console. You can view the action that in the log such as starting a conversation, the details of the event, the name of the user, and the date and time the event was initiated.

You will need to download the Chat activity report and pull it into either Sheets, Data Studio, or BigQuery to analyze the data. You can customize the report by adding filters for Organization Unit or date, and export the log data. You can also set up email alerts that notify you based on Organizational Unit or date.

These admin alert emails can be set up for events such as when a new user is added, a government-based attack, a user password changed, etc. However, native G Suite for Education security doesn’t currently support setting up alerts for content-based risks, such as student self-harm text and image content, financial information sharing, etc.

Google Chat Monitoring for Cyber Safety and Security

The events of the past few months have dramatically changed the way that we communicate in K-12 remote learning. There are many more digital communications on multiple different apps and using multiple SaaS vendors. Monitoring this increased level of digital communications is a challenge for every school district.

The answer for many is to use software like ManagedMethods. This software gives you a single dashboard where you can monitor all communications for student safety signals and data security risks across your entire G Suite for Education environment. This dashboard will not only save your IT and safety teams a significant amount of time. But it will also help keep your students, faculty, and staff safer, your data secure, and your district compliant with cyber safety and security regulations.

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