How Fortinet Improved the Security Posture of our Schools
By Cory Gearhart, Executive Director of Information Technology, Grand Island Public Schools
K-12 school districts are perhaps one of the most overlooked markets when security is discussed. Outside of IoT, K-12 schools are generally the least secured infrastructures, and that is by design. How do we create a platform for student collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking if we lock down every device, application, and website we don’t know or trust? This is a challenge which my colleagues from around the state and country wrestle with daily. Fortunately, there has been progress in the security marketplace which helps address many of these concerns and while there are many solutions which provide some integration, our district chose Fortinet as a partner to provide this security fabric. Integration between endpoints, filters, firewalls and cloud services has given us the layered approach necessary to keep accounts and devices secure without sacrificing performance or usability. Providing these layers with nearly single pane of glass management helps industries like ours manage our budget for security personnel, since most companies still don’t understand the value of information security until something bad (and costly) happens.
Regardless of how many times we encourage password changes, strong passphrases, use of a password manager and two factor authentication, there will always be someone who writes their password on a sticky note and puts it under their keyboard. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter though, when just last January over 770 million records were discovered being shared online. We have, for far too long, assumed that the companies we give our data to are secure, and after some very public and notable data breaches we are all learning that is not the case. We’ve had companies we’ve partnered with in the past, keep our passwords in their database with reversible encryption, then email the entire list to a secretary when troubleshooting an issue. Needless to say, we no longer do business with them. It is imperative that as industry professionals we continue to hold our vendors and partners to a high standard on security and while we keep monitoring them, we must also turn a keen eye inward. Cloud hosted services like GSuite and Office365 increase productivity and access and they make it easy for users to single sign-on to other cloud services. However, do our users know the risks associated with granting a web application full access to their file storage, contacts, or email? Data exfiltration can happen so much faster now. How can integrated security products help prevent OAuth transactions to unwanted applications?
I’m very anxious to see what new products and philosophies will emerge in the security space. With the recent acquisition of ZoneFox by Fortinet we will see machine learning (ML) introduced into the security fabric. Artificial intelligence (AI) and ML are not just for keeping malware and ransomware off of devices and off our networks. In the education vertical we are seeing AI used to monitor student communication and searches to help detect evidence of cyberbullying, self harm, and suicidal ideation. This is particularly important because according to cdc.gov, suicide is the second leading cause of death for persons age 10-34. I would also like to see user behavior trends come from AI monitoring through the security fabric. User A send’s approximately 4 emails per day, then suddenly is sending 200 emails, we would like to know about that. Is a web application suddenly scraping all of a users contacts, when previously it only requested one or two during the course of a session? We should know. Can we block application read requests into our data storage on anomalous behavior? I hope very soon the answer would be “Yes”. As we continue to work anytime/anywhere and our data follows us, we will need cutting edge solutions to help our users protect themselves from themselves and the unknown, and I believe AI can help.