K-12 schools’ cyber safety declines

CDW Government (CDW-G) announced the results of the 2008 School Safety Index, the national benchmark on the current status of public school district safety. Based on eight indicators and four contra indicators, or challenges, the School Safety Index provides a first-hand view of school safety issues from the perspective of more than 400 district IT and security directors.

The 2008 School Safety Index finds that districts improved their physical safety score by 39 percent over 2007, while their cyber safety score declined by 25 percent in the same time period.

Key findings include:

  • More than half of districts are using network access control (NAC) to protect data and ensure that only authorized users and approved applications access their networks. However, budget constraints, lack of staff resources and the need for more IT tools cancelled out districts’ efforts to improve cyber safety.
  • Nearly half of districts are utilizing mass notification systems, and 70 percent are using security cameras; 29 percent of districts report that security cameras have had a positive impact on district safety.
  • Districts should consider the instant access that IP security cameras can give their local police. While more schools are using security cameras, only a small number of districts give their local police force the ability to access digital footage in real-time during an emergency.

Measured on a scale from zero to 100, the national cyber safety average this year was 38.6, down 25 percent since 2007. This year’s Index finds that NAC is emerging as an essential IT tool for K-12 school districts, with 57 percent using NAC to view and control who and what is on the network. Rural districts lead NAC adoption at 60 percent, followed by suburban districts at 54 percent and urban districts at 45 percent.

While 89 percent of districts authenticate users to their networks, there is still room for improvement, as 16 percent (mainly urban and rural districts) still use general log-ons, rather than unique names or passwords – exposing themselves to a potential security breach.

Despite increased use of cyber security tools and dedicated attention to IT security, reported cyber security breaches are up in every segment but urban. Overall, 14 percent of districts report at least one IT security breach in the last 12 months, up from 9 percent in 2007. Districts with enrollments of 1,000 to 4,999 had the largest increase in breaches, from 8 percent in 2007 to 18 percent in 2008.

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K-12 schools’ cyber safety declines