E Security
E Security

Software glitch lets predators contact students

AUSTRALIA'S top cyber safety boss has warned that strangers can directly contact students via a privacy glitch in education software, which is available to every public school student in NSW.

The loophole allows predators to verify a student's email using Google Hangouts and then contact them directly or by sharing a ­Google document with them.

 

Students Isla Barker, 6, and Ricky Anicheev, 5, work on a laptop. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Students Isla Barker, 6, and Ricky Anicheev, 5, work on a laptop. Picture: Jeremy Piper

NSW public schools are especially vulnerable because their students are given an ­official email address which simply comprises their first and last name.

In a letter sent to every state and federal education minister, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said schools must do their "due diligence" to protect students

"The security and privacy concerns regard the naming conventions of student email addresses and the ability to validate these through the Google Education Suite," Ms Inman Grant told The Daily Telegraph.

"We understand the email naming conventions used by some state and independent schools may be easy to guess and validate, if account privacy and security settings are inadequate.

"This could increase the likelihood of a person who presents a risk to a child using their school email address to initiate contact with them."

The eSafety Commissioner's office has briefed schools on how to improve students' online safety, and examine whether the "configuration of Google Apps for Education ensures the privacy and security of students and their accounts".

 

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.

 

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.

Australian Students Privacy Coalition's spokesman Michael Uren said most schools used Google's Suite for Education service - for housing emails and documents - which allows their email to be easily verified with Google Hangouts.

Strangers can then email or communicate with children via shareable Google Docs, even if the child's email address is disabled from Google Hangouts.

"It is insane the scenarios it opens up for ­people to do dodgy stuff," Mr Uren said.

"If not locked down, Google's Suite for Education allows a 40-year-old paedophile, maybe pretending to be a 10-year-old, to share joint-editable docs with your child.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell told The Daily Telegraph she was investigating additional sec­urity measures for public school children's "online platforms".

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said he had also acted on the concerns.

"When the issue was raised with me, I had my department write to every state and territory education authority expressing my concern and asking them to act," Mr Tehan said.

Katia Barker said she was concerned by the technology loophole and how it could ­affect her daughter Isla, 6.

"I think using tech is ­important - but obviously it should be in a safe and controlled environment they shouldn't have other people connect with them," Ms Barker said yesterday.