While technology can significantly improve the quality of education a school provides to its students, it also creates additional risks. An area often overlooked when the school year is underway is network security. New threats emerge almost daily, making a school’s information management system particularly vulnerable if it doesn’t regularly review security measures and patch its networks with the latest updates.
One way a district can update its network security system is by conducting a security audit of school networks. This is important as many different users are connected to the school’s systems. More states now have information security legislation specifically aimed at protecting systems, making it even more important to protect information transmitted over the network.
Why Conducting a School Network Security Audit is Important
Data breaches present a risk to all entities, regardless of size, industry, or function. For schools, there’s a variety of sensitive information captured, stored, and transmitted every day. If any of this information falls into the hands of cybercriminals, it can put administrators, educators, and students at risk.
Conducting an efficiency audit on the school’s security systems will highlight any gaps in the networks and help to identify existing vulnerabilities. This will allow the school district to proactively establish adequate controls and adopt better policies to protect information from unauthorized access or dissemination.
What Issues will a Network Security Audit Highlight?
When conducting a network security audit, technical experts will compare the school’s current implementation against industry best practices. There may also be State or Federal directives that apply, or even specific policies specified by the school district itself.
Additionally, the school may opt to include a technology efficiency audit of their IT systems that could lead to cost savings in the coming year. Below are some steps a school can take to improve network security.
1. Establish a Comprehensive Proactive Security Plan
Since 2016, criminals have targeted schools due to their outdated security policies and known vulnerabilities in legacy network systems. This led the FBI to issue a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for school districts to implement a proactive framework for network security.
The framework should list what sensitive information requires protection and what policies will achieve their stated goals. As IT resources may already be scarce, the school should look at automating or outsourcing security functions to ensure they can implement their frameworks and strategies effectively. Even if a school maintains full or part time IT personnel, it can be beneficial to bring in an outside consultant or firm to provide additional resources, information, and support.
2. Segment Sensitive Information and School Networks
Any Personally-Identifying-Information (PII) should be stored and transmitted securely. This requires encryption of the information both at rest and during transit. Any access to this information should be subject to a detailed audit trail and access control models.
Similarly, the networks used to share this information may require segmentation to prevent an exploit in one leading to a breach of PII. By applying stringent security policies to systems carrying the school’s sensitive information, the institution can ensure even a successful attack doesn’t lead to a disastrous data breach.
3. Extend Policies to All Devices
Allowing educators, administrators, and students to connect to the network from their own devices may improve productivity, but it also adds additional risks to the IT systems. If the school allows students to connect and perform tasks from mobile devices, these should be included in the security policies. Establishing a two-factor authentication method and performing endpoint scanning on these devices will reduce the ability of hackers to inject malware into the systems.
4. Carry out Penetration Tests and Apply Security Patches Regularly
Hackers have become more sophisticated, but they are also more dedicated and use persistent attacks to gain access to a network. Security professionals should carry out regular penetration tests to identify any new vulnerabilities and eliminate the technical debt that exists in the system. If new security patches become available, the IT team needs to apply these as soon as possible. It’s common for a known exploit to lead to a breach simply because an available patch was missing.
Implement an Affordable Network Security Solution with CDS Office Technologies
CDS Office Technologies can help schools implement a comprehensive network security solution without ruining the budget. With the FCC’s E-rate program, schools have access to reduced Federal grant money for to subsidize network and internet infrastructure. Whether the school needs powerful and efficient Meraki routers or to deploy network monitoring and security policies from CDS Office Technologies, the E-rate program can help make it more affordable.
CDS Office Technologies will work with the school to audit its current network security and IT infrastructure implementation and recommend changes for a more effective system. With managed technology services, cloud storage solutions, and advanced network security expertise, CDS Office Technologies can assist any school district in regaining control over their digital infrastructure.
To request a network security audit from CDS Office Technologies and improve your school’s security systems, get in touch with one of our consultants today.