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Parents using work devices for home schooling despite cybersecurity concerns

home schooling

Have the lines been blurred between the personal and professional use of devices? According to a new survey from YouGov, a quarter of UK workers are allowing their kids to use their work device/s for home schooling, carrying with it the potential for major security implications for employers. 

According to a YouGov survey of 2025 employees, commissioned by iomart.com, sharing is definitely not caring. The survey investigated the ongoing security risks faced by businesses following the shift to home working during the pandemic, and looked at key areas of concern like sharing of devices within households, password hygiene and how social media was accessed. 

The survey, from iomart.com, found businesses are forgoing the usual levels of due diligence and security considerations due to an immediate focus on remaining operational while working remotely.

Remote workers with children are allowing their family to use their work devices for online activities, including home schooling, homework and socialising with friends – including gaming.

But this leaves workers vulnerable to hacking, as a blurred line between professional and personal device use means businesses cannot ensure the use of key security elements, including managed network access, gateway firewalls and a secure cloud environment. 

As well as using their work devices for personal use, employees were also identified as having poor password security, as almost three quarters (74%) of those surveyed stated they didn’t use different passwords for everything, despite security recommendations. 

Neil Christie, chief operating officer at iomart, says, “While it’s understandable that the lines have been blurred between personal and business use when it comes to work devices – due to home schooling, childcare and an increased need to stay social online – this has key security implications that need to be addressed.

“This change in behaviour patterns, particularly in a busy home, makes the corporate environment more vulnerable to a security breach. Consultation and guidance around security matters should now take precedence as remote working is going to play a much bigger part in the life of every business.

“This includes addressing the highlighted risks that result from seemingly innocuous everyday behaviours in the home. As well as device sharing, these risks include using common passwords across multiple systems and lack of control over access to certain applications or social media.”

Cyber risks have come into sharper focus during the national lockdown with many employees working from home, and with an increase in remote working set to continue after pandemic restrictions ease, the need for heightened attention around device security and employee training remains a priority.  

In order to strengthen their at-home security, businesses require a comprehensive audit of their current working practices to identify any areas of vulnerability, and look to schedule frequent audits on a consistent basis to ensure risks are constantly monitored. 

This is particularly important for organisations that handle a wide breadth of sensitive data, such as those in the medical and health sector – a sector the survey identified as demonstrating poor password security practices. 

Now, if you’ve made it this far, time for my opinion on the matter. For a start, as much as cybersecurity is hella important, I deliberately left the headline in the voice it was in when I received the piece, which I found to be incredibly ‘parent blaming’.

And although I will never ever understand the need or want to have children, those poor souls that did, have been not only thrust into a global pandemic with the rest of us, but the place they expect to be able to leave their children while they work for a living closed. Hell, the place they worked closed, and a lethal cocktail of home working and home schooling began, especially for those dealing with it on their own – I salute you.

For example, in my household, I currently have one laptop, my work laptop. I did have a personal one too, but after an unfortunate incident with the cat it was no more – don’t ask.

Anyway, were I to have my own sprogling suddenly ‘needing educated’ in my home, am I going to rush out and buy them a brand-new laptop (y’know cos all the second hand ones disappeared in about 0.3 seconds)? No, I’m not.

Firstly, I can’t afford to just splash out on a laptop that for all I know could be made redundant in a couple of months’ time, and I know a lot of families, some with more than one child, that certainly couldn’t afford to do that.

I read through the entirety of gov.co.uk’s page titled, ‘Supporting your children’s remote education during coronavirus (Covid-19)’, where I found endless mention of ‘virtual this’ and ‘online that’, but what if the kid in question has no means of accessing this type of learning? Must they go to school, putting their families and teachers at further risk?

On that page was not one singular mention of support for the equipment needed, or advice pertaining to that side of things (unless your child is classed as SEN). Nor was there any cybersecurity advice for parents if devices were being shared.

I also asked a few parents (with children at various schools) if when they were informed home schooling was to be a thing, were they ever asked if they had access to the equipment required for home learning. The resounding answer was no.

And I’m sure there were plenty parents that rushed to order their little cherubs the best of the best, but with 1.9 million families having used foodbanks due to the difficulties brought about by 2020, I think a laptop/printer/stationary may have been a bit of a stretch.

I mean, the government did say they’d aim to give out 1.3 million laptops and tablets so kids can study from home, as part of its ‘Get help with technology’ scheme, first announced by the Department of Education (DfE) in April 2020.

But, for a free laptop, only the following may qualify:

  • Disadvantaged children in school years three to 11 (ages seven to 15) who do not have access to a device and whose face-to-face education is disrupted
  • Disadvantaged children in any year group who have been advised to shield because they, or someone they live with, are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Disadvantaged children in any year group attending a hospital school.

Always nice to be classified as ‘disadvantaged’ isn’t it? And how ‘disadvantaged’ does one have to be to qualify?

Also, parents and carers can’t apply themselves oh no, they have to do it via the school, not humiliating at all. And considering in the UK we currently have almost 12 million children under the age of 16, I think 1.3 million laptops may be a little futile, don’t you?

If devices are to be shared, it is the employer’s responsibility to be understanding in an already difficult situation and educate their staff on cybersecurity measures.

And I’m sure the local councils are able to assist to a degree, but these resources aren’t finite. And again, I know more than most how important cybersecurity is, but I think attempting to twist and point the finger at the parents is all kinds of wrong.

Earlier in the article,  CEO of iomart stated, “This change in behaviour patterns, particularly in a busy home, makes the corporate environment more vulnerable to a security breach.”

Quite honestly, I think over the last year, the ‘corporate environment’ and economy in general has had quite enough attention and perhaps more onus needs to be placed on the ‘change in behaviour patterns’ of our everyday lives and how those are affecting us on a spiritual, intellectual and even cellular level.

Right now, there are bigger concerns in the world than your kid sharing your laptop. May common sense prevail.

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