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How to improve network security in K-12 schools


IT managers use cloud management to maintain CIPA security compliance

The proliferation of mobile devices and cloud-based applications over the last few years is creating opportunities to transform the way children are educated. However, along with these opportunities come unique challenges, such as maintaining CIPA compliance and ensuring security of student data.

Schools must ensure their networks conform to the rules laid out in the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Congress enacted CIPA in 2000 to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful Internet content.

CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools and libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program (click here to learn about maximizing E-Rate). The goal is to protect students, as well as to protect districts from legal and financial liabilities.

According to CIPA, a school’s Internet safety policy must include the following technology protection measures: * Block or filter Internet access to pictures and materials that are obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors. * Provide for the safety and security of minors in direct online electronic communications. * Prevent “hacking” and other unlawful activities by minors online. * Prevent unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of minors’ personal information.

Let’s look at these measures one by one:

1. Web Filtering

For schools with hundreds of computers for employees and students — and some with connected school buses — it’s very difficult for IT departments to monitor web browsing. However, it’s of the utmost importance, as parents deserve assurance their students won’t have access at school to illicit materials, online gambling, or other sites that distract from and hinder learning.

With cloud-enabled web filtering services from Zscaler, schools can establish browsing rules that will block access to certain sites. These sites can be blocked by genre, such as online gambling, or by site, such as ESPN or American Eagle.

Enterprise-grade routing solutions enable schools to manage complex access policies for different users and sites. Also, they provide school IT departments with real-time, cloud-based threat intelligence.

2. Direct Online Communications

Just as centralized cloud control allows schools to block access to harmful sites and malware, it also can guard against social media activity via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

A cloud-based routing solution also can block access to sites that initiate phishing scams. People who launch these are constantly changing the form of the attacks, as well as the domain names and IP addresses where they originate. Cradlepoint devices proactively identify and respond to threats faster and help reduce costs using next-generation firewall protection with enhanced virus protection and anti-malware.

3. Student Hacking

To start with, schools can help prevent student hacking by establishing ground rules and educating students about the ramifications of such activity. However, schools also strive to ensure the gateway into the network — the routers — is equipped with the most recent security software and firewalls.

With remote cloud management, school or district IT staff can configure and update routers with ease, and even schedule adjustments to automatically take place overnight.

4. Unauthorized Access and Use

The proliferation of mobile devices and IoT technologies such as IP surveillance systems, wireless printers, and security cameras create more “network on-ramps.” Many of these on-ramps can be easily hacked and used to pivot to other parts of the network — particularly where sensitive data is held.

A child’s Social Security number is not associated with a credit file, so there’s little chance that credit companies are monitoring it for fraud. This means that once hackers get their hands on student data, it’s much easier for them to take advantage of than data from adults.

With Parallel Networking, schools can physically segment enterprise networks into security zones and mitigate security risks to protect sensitive data from being compromised. If someone uses a less-secure system, such as HVAC, to access a school network, he or she cannot pivot to a network where private information such as minors’ personals records are stored.

For additional security, Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed devices also support CP Secure Threat Management, a comprehensive intrusion prevention and detection system (IPS/IDS), and CP Secure VPN. The latter is an instant and scalable virtual private network that is configured, deployed, and managed from the cloud.

Whether guarding against inappropriate student web surfing or serious network attacks, choosing a leading cloud-managed routing solution provides schools with the ability to cost-effectively keep their networks secure.

Learn More

Explore more about the evolving network for K-12 in our white paper.