How to Get an A+ in Network Security for Your School

Schools are responsible for not only the education and well-being of students, but also the protection of private data pertaining to everything from health reports and psychological profiles to social security numbers and contact addresses.

As the guardians of so much information, schools should always focus on superior network security.

We’ve come up with three major network security features you can implement in your school to shore up potential ongoing vulnerabilities.

1.) Powerful Passwords

For many students, creating passwords at school can seem like another exercise in creativity. Do any kind of basic survey and you’ll find ineffective passwords that range from the doomed “Password1234” to the sarcastic “JohnnySucks.”

In addition, many teachers lack the technological prowess to instruct students in proper password complexity.

Think of an inadequate password’s effect on your network security like this: You can have an adequate lock on your front door, but if you’re leaving the key underneath the doormat it doesn’t do much good. It’s too easy.

A lazy password is a hacker’s best friend.

The most basic way to secure your network is to create longer, more complex passwords. Complicated passwords should include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and emoticons.

Business Insider suggests creating a password by using the “full-sentence technique.” Start with a single sentence, like “I bought salmon for $20 at the grocery store.” Then, just use the first letter of every word and add in the symbols.

So, the resulting phrase “Ibsf$20atgs” would be a random password that you can remember just by memorizing one sentence.

The longer the sentence, the better, because hackers and/or hacking programs have to work harder when passwords are longer.

Utilizing a password manager to keep track of your stockade of complex passwords is a great way to combine the ease of accessing your various web services as if you had one password with the security that password complexity and variety provide.

Related: The Best Password Managers of 2018

2.) Additional User Authentication

A school network faces a huge challenge in that it is often in contact with a countless variety of devices. Not only do the students and faculty have access to the network via district-provided hardware, but the continued growth of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend means that students are connecting through personal phones, tablets, and laptops created by different brands, which also run on different operating systems.

To further increase security, we suggest implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). In a nutshell, MFA is the process of identifying an online user by validating two or more claims presented by the user, each from a different category of factors.

We already use multi-factor authentication in the real world. One example is when you go to apply for a passport. The passport application requires a minimum of two forms of identification, such as a state driver’s license and a birth certificate. MFA for your network works the same way.

Your school network should establish a multi-factor authentication process that involves:

a.) The complex password we mentioned earlier.

b.) Something the user has on hand, like a cell phone or tablet.

c.) Biometrics like a fingerprint or optical or voice recognition software.


When the MFA process involves a device on hand, there is an inherent check-and-balance to the system, allowing the network to authenticate the device being used.

When the MFA process involves biometrics, your network can cross-reference requested access with the biometric data on hand.

Whichever way you and your managed service provider choose to utilize multi-factor authentication, it is guaranteed to make it more difficult for intruders to gain access to your network, and to keep your data more secure.

3.) Updated Infrastructure

Many schools have hundreds of computers and other web-accessible devices operating on their networks. And often, the network itself is comprised of legacy equipment such as outdated servers, computers, and other devices.

Often this outdated infrastructure has security flaws. Or else it can no longer stand up to the progressive threats of malware and ransomware. It can also be chock full of bottlenecks and bandwidth issues that slow performance across the network.  But that’s an issue for another post.

Related: Why Traditional Firewalls Can’t Keep up With Modern Trends

For many schools, a migration to the cloud is the best way to shore up vulnerabilities while simultaneously fixing the performance problems plaguing their network.

Rather than making a high capital investment in replacing the vulnerable outdated equipment, switching to cloud computing means taking on a lower monthly cost for superior performance and security.

It can even bring about more powerful web filtering tools that block access to harmful or inappropriate sites across the network.

Report Card Time

Do your school passwords pass the test? Are your students and faculty using multi-factor authentication to ensure the safety of your network? And is that network up to modern security standards? If so, you pass with flying colors. If not, it’s definitely time to chat about how to get your grades up.


Why Traditional Firewalls Can’t Keep Up with Modern Threats

The online security threat landscape has changed exponentially over the years. Not only are data breaches an everyday occurrence now, breaches can take months to identify. And if that isn’t scary enough for you, consider that the average cost of a serious data breach costs businesses roughly $4 million.

It’s not just data breaches you have to worry about. Even old-school methods like phishing scams make their way around again every so often. As soon as you think your standard firewalls are capable of handling such basic attacks, new strategies emerge that make them more effective than they ever were before.

Much of that has to do with social engineering, combined with utilizing your own internal assets (such as your employees) against the best interests of your organization.

There’s also the threat of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks cause massive data loss and unplanned downtime – so much so that companies simply will never fully recover from them. Research conducted by Kaspersky shows that 26% of all DDoS attacks are successful in shutting down a business permanently.

You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your organization. Your firewall is typically your first line of defense against random digital threats and direct cyberattacks. That’s why traditional firewalls are just not enough to protect against modern cyber threats.


Yesterday’s Firewalls Aren’t Enough for Today

Once upon a time, traditional firewalls were fully capable of handling incoming and outgoing connections from your company’s private network to the public internet.

That was also during a time you could count the number of internet-capable computers in your business on one hand.

These traditional firewalls were effective in controlling the web traffic that passed through certain points within a network. For the most part, they did their job efficiently.

Today, however, there are so many different types of connections happening within your organization that traditional firewalls simply can’t keep up. Firewalls are bombarded with incoming connections from mobile devices, laptops, desktops, fax machines, and the hundreds (possibly thousands) of different business productivity applications. Of course, all of this occurs on a daily basis.

Traditional firewalls just aren’t able to keep up with the nearly infinite network connections being made at any given moment. They’re great for blocking traffic from specific IP addresses, but even IP addresses can easily be spoofed anyone with rudimentary IT knowledge.

That’s why the next generation firewall is the next logical step in the evolution of network security at the enterprise level.

Next Generation Firewall Security You Can Count On

Gone are the days where you could block specific ports and services in an effort to control what applications have access to your network. Sure, you could implement certain internet-use policies, such as a “No Facebook” or “No Personal Email” rule, but let’s face it – they don’t really work. They only create unnecessary resentment among your workforce.

For complete control and transparency over your network, you to utilize next-generation firewall security. Your business will have more visibility into what’s connected to your network, and how it functions.

Built-in threat prevention reduces the pathways available for attacks, so there’s a greatly minimized risk of applications running amok on the network. Next-generation firewalls provide very best in enterprise-grade antiviruses, application controls, spam filtering, and deep packet inspection tools. You’ll also be able to quickly identify which IP addresses are tied to each device, and which users they belong to.

These tools are all you need in one convenient place – which provides you with the greatest ease of access and use.

Benefits of Next Generation Firewalls

All the tools and resources available with next-generation firewalls can provide unparalleled protection for your company. They don’t slow down your network operations and don’t add any unnecessary latency or complexity to your IT security operations.

In summation, with next-generation firewall protection from RWA you get:

–        Integrated Intrusion Protection

–        Ability to identify local traffic back to the user and device

–        Application visibility and control

–        Simplified security infrastructure (anti-virus, spam, packet inspection, etc. all together)

–        A more secure organization without slowing down business operations

Evolve Your Firewall Security With The Help of RWA

If your organization is still running on a traditional network security infrastructure, especially when it comes to firewall security, it’s time to put serious consideration into making a transition.

Organizations that haven’t yet made the transition to next-generation firewalls are low-hanging fruit for cyber threats. Hackers, cyberattackers, and all the looming digital threats aren’t waiting for your company to implement the next generation security tools, platforms, and strategies.

Rather, they’re more than happy to infiltrate your organization now, while you still haven’t made any necessary shifts to a more effective and comprehensive network security solution.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait for them to strike. Now is the time to speak with professional next-generation firewall consultants at RWA. We’ll help you determine the perfect solution for your business, and we’ll highlight how that will protect your most valuable company assets.