Providing a safe and secure environment for children to learn and grow is naturally a high priority for schools. Today’s schools face the challenge of not just physically securing the premises, but building an environment that fosters a culture of learning and acceptance while balancing the expectations of a diverse set of stakeholders—including parents, faculty, staff, and the students themselves.
Fortunately, the integrated approach to security exemplified by today’s technology has put schools in a better position than ever to improve not just physical security, but day-to-day operations and emergency preparedness.
An Integrated Approach Can Improve More Than Security
“Physical Security”—when it comes to schools—used to mean locks on the doors. Over time, it has taken on new meaning, with many schools adding security cameras and others placing a resource officer on duty. Schools that wanted to put an increased emphasis on security didn’t have many tools available to them, and those that were available—such as metal detectors—were generally burdensome and imprecise.
Today’s security solutions are considerably more advanced. Surveillance cameras alone have undergone something of a digital revolution. In the past, even schools with considerable camera deployments could rarely afford the personnel necessary to effectively monitor those camera feeds—after all, even the most responsible and observant individual can’t possibly be expected to notice everything that happens across a dozen monitors.
Surveillance cameras were generally used to record incidents to be reviewed after the fact. Contrast that with today’s IP cameras, which can be equipped with advanced analytics tools capable of detecting security events as they happen and raising the necessary alerts as quickly as possible.
In fact, even using the word “camera” sells today’s surveillance technology short. In many ways, today’s cameras are the ultimate sensor, and can be equipped with applications that record far more than just the visual spectrum. Thermal cameras are monitoring the heat spectrum.
Radar detectors are identifying movement where none should occur. Audio monitoring can detect glass breakages or aggressive voices. And each of these can be integrated with a broader security system capable of generating real-time alerts to the relevant internal or external authorities.
Schools will also be looking beyond the camera in 2020, particularly as integrated solutions become increasingly capable of supporting other types of related initiatives. Adoption of access control technology will continue to grow as schools leverage this technology to secure building entrances, leveraging video intercoms to vet visitors in a secured vestibule implementation.
Although there are potential privacy issues still to be resolved with tools like facial recognition, similar video analytics tools can provide a valuable new way to flag unauthorized individuals before they gain access to the school.
Communications will likewise remain essential to day-to-day operations—as well as proving critical during emergencies. Interoperable technology that enables bi-directional communication from classrooms, handheld radios, and public access solutions provides a clear benefit to schools, particularly as the technology can be federated to law enforcement when needed, allowing for direct communication between authorities and those on the ground.
Knowing who is on campus at any given time is an issue that schools have tried to tackle for many years using traditional paper-based processes such as a visitor log. Reliance on good visitor behavior and unreasonable expectations that people will always do the right thing are assumptions that have negatively impacted the integrity of the K-12 campus security posture.
Using the standard method of sign-in sheets and issuing badges is often operationalized with the sole intent to serve as a process check rather than to provide automated notification of a visitor concern or a means for first responders to conduct rollcall in an emergency situation.
The use of the paper visitor sign-in process should be eliminated when funding is available to deploy an electronic, software-based visitor management system that supports a process of verifying the visitor’s identity.
A school’s visitor management program needs additional physical security components to effectively support its operation and use, such as wayfinding and signage and controlled entry points. The traditional paper method simply does not address the physical operational needs to successfully support a visitor management policy. It is important to remember the power of perception and how district staff will set the example for others to follow.
For instance, all visitors, district staff or other outside contractors should, by policy, be required to sign-in daily at a main administration office, regardless of familiarity with any of these visitors. Often district personnel fail to sign-in as they are familiar to staff. Without an approved security credential specific to individual facilities and their work locations, schools are placing their greatest assets (students, faculty and staff) at risk.
Modern electronic visitor management systems support a school district’s ability to implement holistic district-wide visitor management providing much greater control. This approach, coupled with a culture in which leadership empowers its administration to enforce policies and procedures, will lead to a stronger security posture.
Single points of entry with controlled vestibules allow schools to control, monitor and approve access from a secured control point. Without the electronic visitor management system in place, school personnel may be in a situation in which they will have to confront visitors who may not be suitable to enter a school – potentially creating a stressful face-to-face encounter.
By Randy Lack, safety, security and computer vision manager for the Americas, Dell Technologies.
Many colleges and universities are working to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to build “smart campuses” that promise new peace of mind for students and their families and a better overall experience for all who set foot on campus.
Schools are the largest market for video security systems in the U.S., with an estimated $450 million spent in 2018. Adoption will continue to increase as IoT-enabled security solutions come onto the scene—empowering colleges and universities to do more than monitor security cameras and investigate after-event footage.
New kinds of devices and powerful analytics, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, are transforming cameras and sensors from passive data collectors into intelligent observers with the ability to recognize and alert security to potential problems, provide real-time insight during unfolding events, and help identify patterns to proactively deter and prevent problems.
Smart IP cameras with “computer vision” can learn over time to recognize patterns and behaviors in order to zero in on suspicious activity and better predict the likelihood of events. These cameras, combined with sensors that can detect sound, temperature, vibration, chemicals and more, form a system that can alert security to potential problems by relying on insights delivered from analytics-driven interconnected IoT devices.
As a result, security teams can help improve response, share critical information with first responders, make better use of available resources, and help prevent situations from escalating or in some cases, help prevent them from occurring in the first place.
The following are just some of the innovative secure-campus applications being deployed today:
Real-time integrated dispatch solutions that enable live video streams and location mapping to be shared with community police, fire, and other first responders, for faster, more coordinated response
Sensor, floorplan and GPS data that combine with incident monitoring, push notifications, and the ability to pinpoint the location of anyone with a cell phone. This allows first responders to isolate events to send in the right kind of help to where it’s needed more quickly.
The open visibility of 24/7 IoT technologies such as security cameras across campus serve as a deterrent, helping to prevent theft, assault and vandalism
Compact, solar-powered, Wi-Fi / 4G / RF-connected devices help cover “blind spots” without the expense of permitting an infrastructure investment to bring power to them
Smart lighting follow people across dark campuses
“Escort drones” accompany students and staff from one location to another
The need for a holistic, integrated approach
To take advantage of these applications, it’s important to understand that security is no longer confined to self-contained, standalone systems and departments. With IoT, campus safety becomes a widely distributed, networked, and data-driven solution, with new requirements for shared campus policies and IT modernization across infrastructure, security, data management, analytics, operations, software development, and more.
Indeed, many HiEd safety solutions require integration with security and IT organizations beyond the physical campus. For example, a large urban campus in southern California and surrounding city government are working together to tie together data from campus, municipal and even the shuttle buses that transport students to and from the city for cultural and sporting events. The solution being developed also enables city and campus police to log in to each other’s systems when coordinated efforts are needed.
By Jeff Paine, vice president of marketing, Pica8.
There’s a revolution sweeping the world’s biggest data centers: open switching. Look inside the top seven web-scale companies, and you won’t find the big networking incumbents. Instead, you’ll see “white-box” switches (or, in many cases, open “brite-box” switches produced by vendors like Dell EMC) that can run open, Linux-based network operating systems from multiple vendors.
What do these companies know that the rest of the industry doesn’t? That there’s no law dictating you have to use proprietary network devices and management software. And that, by leaving the proprietary world behind, you can simplify your network and radically reduce your costs.
This secret is now spreading to organizations in every industry, including education. Colleges and universities have experimented with open switching in research labs for years, but until recently, it just wasn’t feasible for the larger campus network. Now, the last barriers to open access networks have disappeared. University IT departments are starting to realize that the status quo for campus networks is a choice, not an imperative, and there are compelling alternatives to consider.
Seeding the Open Network Revolution
Most colleges and universities use the same aging, proprietary campus network infrastructure they’ve had in place for years. After all, when these networks were built, the big names in networking (Cisco, Juniper, Extreme) were the only options. Despite massive shifts in the devices and applications that have come to rely on access networks in the intervening years, surprisingly little has changed. To the point that most university IT departments just accept these networks’ inherent disadvantages as the price of doing business. Disadvantages like:
High costs, especially for proprietary network management software and automation frameworks, which can run to more than half a million dollars annually
Antiquated three-tier architectures that can’t keep pace with demand for more capacity at the edge and create a sprawling network that’s a nightmare to deploy and manage
Inefficient high-availability mechanisms like Spanning Tree, which strand half the available switch ports and bandwidth in the network
For several years now, the hyper-scale web companies have used open networks to address all these issues. White-box/brite-box solutions can do the same things as brand-name devices (and use the same underlying hardware) with far more architectural flexibility, at a fraction of the price. Until recently though, there were gaps in these solutions that kept open switching relegated to data center networks (or, on college campuses, to the lab).
Tulane University works with Digital Defense, Inc. to increase the security of the data and personal information of more than 16,000 students, faculty and staff. Tulane was struggling with reports that provided large amounts of static and extraneous data, which then had to be distilled into something actionable.
“In higher education, we have the unique challenge of walking a very fine line between providing a secure environment for our students, faculty and staff, while being careful not to be the internet police and block valuable research,” said Hunter Ely, assistant vice president, information security and policy officer at Tulane University.
The Tulane security team discovered a customizable vulnerability scanning and management tool able to deliver reports that provide actionable intelligence, allowing the team to move quickly on remediation issues and help protect the sensitive data of students, faculty and staff.
“Digital Defense helps us identify and remediate critical issues with clear and concise reports supported by a team of knowledgeable experts,” said Mark Liggett, senior security analyst at Tulane University.
Thanks to a vulnerability scanning technology (Frontline VM) Tulane experiences fewer false positives, which saves time, and Frontline VM does not take weeks of training to get new people up and running. This means more members of the security team can use it and have role-based access to the data.
“The data from Frontline VM is distinct without having to go into a lengthy description, and the critical issues are very clear – the big things do not get lost in the shuffle,” said Liggett.
“We work hard to ensure our clients are receiving the data they need to make their environments secure, and also provide security savvy support to assist in rapidly remediating security vulnerabilities that our solutions uncover,” said Larry Hurtado, CEO of DDI. “We understand that higher education institutions like Tulane face a unique set of challenges, and we work hard to support them in keeping the information in their community protected.”
Higher education institutions in the US and abroad are increasingly becoming the target of cyberattacks. Reliance on digitized student records has given cybercriminals multiple avenues to access student information.
To accommodate the student, employee, and research needs, most higher education institutions maintain relatively open, accessible networks and systems. This presents a conundrum for schools: how to balance security needs while facilitating academic activities.
The risk to individual students is high: a breached student record delivers a comprehensive view of a student’s life including personal demographic data, academic records, financial information, and in some cases, even confidential medical data. Compounding these risks is the fact student records are retained for years after they leave the institution.
Students are often the source of potential data breaches. They need to be educated on cybersecurity hygiene principles including the risks with using old and outdated software programs and sharing login credentials with friends and other students. Another risk is downloading sensitive data to personal devices that are typically less protected than institution-owned computer systems or connecting personal devices to the school’s network.
Once connected to the school’s network, each of these personal devices pose additional vulnerabilities to the institution’s systems and many authentication solutions can only run on certain devices or devices that have certain technologies (like biometrics). Even if a school has robust security measures in place, the number of access points introduced by individual devices may unintentionally expose sensitive data.
Tools4ever, one of the world’s largest providers of identity governance and administration solutions and services, announces that it will exhibit at the 2020 TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) Convention and Exposition. TCEA will be held Feb. 3-7, 2020, at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.
The annual event is one of the largest, most widely respected events in the country, where education professionals gather to share their vision for the future of education. Tools4ever (Booth #1258) will conduct live demonstrations of its cloud-based identity management solution, HelloID, which is used by hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities throughout North America.
HelloID represents the next evolution in Tools4ever’s 20-year effort to improve and increase the usage and support for education technology in the classroom. HelloID provides administrators and educators with the solution they need to ensure secure access to learning environments, educational devices, and self-guided service and technical support.
The robust cloud platform, HelloID, also enhances students’ learning experiences in and outside of the classroom by providing them the ability to continuously maintain or gain access to their learning portals and devices—at any time, from any connected location.
“The TCEA event is something Tools4ever looks forward to at the start of each new year. Coming back to Austin, TCEA 2020 looks to be a great event to learn and share more in advancing technology to empower staff, students, administrators, and parents—both in and out of the classroom. We are excited to be part of TCEA 2020, including sharing our latest cloud developments with HelloID,” said Peter LaChance, Regional Education Manager for Tools4ever.
The Texas Computer Education Association was founded in 1980 and is known for being the largest state organization devoted to the use of technology in education. The TCEA Convention and Exposition sees more than 8,000 attendees and 450 exhibitors converge each year to share their passion for education technology during five days full of content, insight, and actionable ideas.
Penn State’s official all-in-one mobile app, Penn State Go, is now available to download in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Penn State Go delivers single sign-on access to features including Canvas, Penn State email, shuttle bus tracking, campus maps, grades, class schedules, tuition bills via LionPATH, LionCash+, library services, Starfish academic advising, and more.
As part of Penn State Go’s launch, students will be able to curate their experience by selecting a specific Persona (user role) from the currently available choices—University Park, World Campus, and a unified Commonwealth Campus. Planned future updates to the app will allow for specific Commonwealth Campus Personas. Additionally, students can keep informed and connected to what is happening at Penn State by opting into specific channels to personalize the types of messages they wish to receive.
Penn State Go is a university-wide initiative that brings together various units and departments to collaborate on its development to improve the student mobile experience. “Aligned with Penn State’s Strategic Plan priority of ‘Transforming Education,’ Penn State Go will help achieve Penn State’s vision for One Penn State 2025 by providing a seamless student experience and online access to processes across all Penn State campuses,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost.
Student feedback played a significant role in developing a comprehensive mobile platform for Penn State. Discussions with University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and other groups began in early 2019 and provided insight into what Penn State Go features were essential to ensure the app’s success.
Students were also engaged through online surveys to prioritize the desired features and suggest a name for the mobile app. “Penn State Go is going to be a great addition to the Penn State community. As a student, it has everything compiled into one application, and that makes finding everything a lot easier,” said Sarah Jordan, a sophomore in education and UPUA facilities committee vice-chair. “My favorite feature is Starfish because it makes it easier for me to contact an advisor. The overall aesthetic of the application is welcoming as well.”
Lucy Security works with many K-12 districts across the country to help build cybersecurity awareness and protect against phishing attacks (most ransomware attacks start with a simple phishing email.)
Below are some comments from Colin Bastable, Lucy CEO, about the types of trends and issues he sees and what K-12 IT departments can do to protect their employees, pupils and district resources from clever cyber attackers.
According to Colin Bastable, CEO of security awareness training firm Lucy Security:
Education: an easy target for cyber attackers
K-12 school districts range from fewer than 100 employees to several thousand. Some have tiny budgets, and some have more significant resources, but they all struggle with vulnerability to cybersecurity attacks. Just this week, CNN reported that a Texas school district lost $2.3 million to an email phishing scam. Unfortunately, this news is just the latest in an ever-increasing trend of cyberattacks targeting K-12 schools.
According to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, more than 752 cyber incidents at K-12 schools have been reported since January 2016, resulting in loss of productivity as well as much-needed funds.
Common K-12 cyber scams
One common scam is the Gift Card Scam, where an email purporting to be from the school principal or a head of department asks an administrator or assistant if they can buy some $100 gift cards. Often, this might be during a break, such as Thanksgiving, when the school staff are unlikely to meet.
Once the admin has the cards, they email a reply (to the fake email address) saying “I have them” and the thief asks them to scratch off the security number and send pictures of the cards, “because I need to get the gift to the students today.”
Another common attack is to send a change of bank deposit details to the school payroll staff.
These are quite simple attacks, yet extraordinarily successful. More sophisticated attacks involve BEC (Business Email Compromise) attacks, like the gift card scam, but involving hundreds, thousands and millions of dollars in losses, where the imposter asks for urgent payments to be authorized.
Ransomware attacks are also prevalent in K-12 and local governments, causing multi-million-dollar losses and billions of losses worldwide.
A university CIO is responsible for myriad responsibilities related to improving and maintaining technology and services in support of institutional goals. Still, to do that effectively, the job goes far beyond what many typically consider as part of the role.
Hiring engineers and IT specialists? That’s part of your requirements, in addition to protecting personal information of students and faculty, ensuring there is a high-performance infrastructure, as well as providing effective systems and IT services to meet institutional requirements.
A CIO needs to have a variety of skills to succeed, including being capable of managing people and change while also considering financials, managing a budget, balancing technology responsibilities and keeping cybersecurity top-of-mind.
Having served as a CIO at prominent four-year universities in the United States, I learned that in addition to the responsibilities outlined above, the role of a CIO is an ever-changing position that requires constant evolution and adaption to meet the needs of a heavily technology-driven community.
Some of the most important lessons I learned include:
1) Relationships are as important as technology
I quickly learned that building relationships with executive decision-makers was crucial to the success of institutional initiatives. Building bonds with business unit leaders from facilities management to public safety to athletics can be as essential at the relationships with the provost, deans and academic department chairs. That is, the CIO should cultivate and maintain healthy relationships at all levels of the university, which can lead to allies in digital transformation efforts.
Being connected with students is equally important. I found having a student technology advisory committee was an excellent way to listen to student needs, gain insights on how to improve IT services and build trust with the student community.
Building a strong IT leadership team also enables CIOs to form better relationships on campus that will assist in implementing new academic and administrative initiatives.
2) Enforcing shared governance is a must
One common CIO mistake is dictating change without receiving input from others on campus. This is why shared governance, placing the responsibility, authority and accountability for decisions on those who will use the technology, should be a top priority. Shared governance with the academic community is essential to being successful.
Higher education CIOs should be shifting responsibilities from operating technology to more strategic governance responsibilities. Students and faculty are the primary constituents that require technology and services from a campus IT organization, so naturally, CIOs should consider their requirements when assessing and implementing new solutions. For example, before purchasing new classroom instructional technology, it is crucial to consult faculty on those matters; and include faculty in pilot projects and testing. This approach often leads to better decisions that are made collaboratively, rather than having IT simply dictate decisions from a technical standpoint.