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Schools recognise the need for enterprise-grade firewalls

In recent years, the changes to regulations regarding data breaches in Australia has highlighted the importance of keeping data protected. The education industry has especially has recognised this need and has moved towards the use of new next-generation enterprise-grade firewalls at schools and colleges.

The need for this change has been accelerated since educational organisations are now considered in the top five targets by hackers.   This is because schools and colleges store sensitive data, including student’s medical records, parents’ and staff members’ financial and personal data. As an example, a data breach that occurred in June 2019 at a college in Western Australia. It’s not only external threats schools have to worry about either. As students become more tech-savvy and as video explanations on how to bypass a firewall become more abundant on YouTube, schools find themselves having to deal with internal threats as well.  This, combined with the fact that many schools have limited technical staff, creates a ‘breach’ recipe for disaster.

The large fines and reputational risk that schools face as a result of a data breach in Australia has led multiple schools to replace traditional, non-enterprise grade firewalls with more capable next-generation, enterprise-grade firewalls in order to meet the highest level of data protection requirements. The Governance and Risk Committees of many schools are now requiring enterprise-grade firewalls in their schools.

With so many firewalls available on the market, what should schools look for in a firewall?

  1. Firstly, the firewall should be a globally recognised next-generation enterprise-grade firewall. This means the firewall manufacturer has a large support and development team that allows it to quickly address any issues as they arise (and before they arise). The manufacturer should supply to a large and diverse range of Industries as this ensures visibility of the latest threats.
  2. The next-generation enterprise-grade firewall should be feature-rich and must be capable of SSL decryption, signature-based application control, user identification, web filtering and threat intelligence. Without these features, the school will have limited visibility of applications being used, will find it very difficult to assess how students are spending their time on the internet, no control over web content students can access and no ability to stop zero-day attacks.
  3. Enterprise-grade firewalls are consistently scrutinised for industry best-practice. Schools should review reports compiled by industry analysts, such as Gartner, who constantly assess and compare firewall providers and their capabilities. Gartner, for example, is known for their ‘Magic Quadrant‘ (figure 1 below). For a firewall provider’s firewall to appear on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, their firewall must be subjected to Gartner’s rigorous testing and assessment.
  4. Schools who are not sure how their current solution compares can have it reviewed by an independent provider or cybersecurity auditor. Good providers will perform a security assessment by placing a next-generation firewall alongside the current solution to compare the two. Penetration testing with vendor-agnostic software in order to pinpoint the weaknesses.

Schools’ duty of care to their students extends beyond their physical wellbeing to their digital protection. Schools invest in good quality locks, security alarms and cameras for their physical facilities. In a similar way, they also need to make sure they take that one important step further and ensure they secure their staff, students and students’ parent data.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact your ICT provider or Saasyan on +61 2 8001 6632 / sales@saasyan.com.au.

Our next blog in this series will discuss “Now you have your next-generation enterprise-grade firewall, why you need to look beyond their layer 7 design to ensure the cyber wellbeing of your students.

 

Saasyan Assure

Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls

Maximizing value through school timetables and calendars

Have you thought about how you can integrate your school timetable and all of the different calendars and scheduling systems that you have at your school? Many schools today, have taken various measures to deliver better value to their users. Want to know how? Read on to find out.

Pushing students’ timetables to personal calendars

One of these approaches has been to push the timetable to the personal calendars of students through Office 365 or Google Calendar. This essentially ensures that the students have easy access to the timetable data anytime anywhere.  Even last minute changes will be reflected the students and therefore they have no need to login to other systems to view their updated timetable.

Pushing teachers’ timetables to personal calendars

Teachers’ timetables can also be pushed through to their personal calendars through Office 365/ Google Calendar. This will give teachers quick and easy access to their timetables and will to need to login to other systems to access the latest timetable details. This will also make scheduling meetings with teachers really convenient as the teacher’s calendars will be the single source for their free and busy times of each day.

Easy bookings based on the timetables

You will also be able to book rooms and halls based on the school timetables. The room resource calendars will be up to date and will be regarded as the single source for the free and already occupied slots for the halls and rooms. This will prevent overlapping bookings and miscommunication. To make it easier, room resource calendars can be used to display the room booking information on wall mounted display panels so that students and teachers can easily see when they will be occupied.

Access for parents

Parts of the timetable can be made available to parents through the school extranet or the parents’ portal. This will enable the school to enhance the extranet or the parent portal by adding instant and real-time updates on the timing of classes and any extracurricular events.

Integration with other systems

Timetables can also be made available to other systems. One example of this would be Saasyan Assure which uses timetable data to precisely map the web activity of students to the period and the class during which it occurred.

The above examples show how valuable timetable data is and how schools can benefit from making it more integrated and more readily accessible. It also demonstrates how this approach to timetable info can increase the efficiency and cut down on time-consuming manual administrative tasks. Schools will no longer need to dedicate time to compile and send emails to notify students, staff or parents about last minute changes.