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Schools get technical

How VPNs can protect your school's data

By combining the plumbing of the internet with heavy-duty encryption, a VPN can help keep a district’s secrets. Under the surface, VPNs use a technique known as tunneling to create an encrypted data path from sender to receiver and back.

The key is that everything from the web address to the actual data is encoded with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cypher. To potential snoopers, it looks like random gibberish, but to the sender and receiver, it is student grades, class lists and attendance records.

AES has so many potential passwords that a supercomputer trying thousands of potential matches a second would need billions of years before a hacker could read the data.

Setting up a VPN requires a specialized server that handles the process. It’s usually based in a school or district’s server room and can be freestanding or a rack-mounted device.