School security breaches on the rise

Increases in physical and network security breaches among K-12 school districts are hampering schools’ efforts to improve their overall security, according to the third annual School Safety Index, a survey of more than 400 K-12 district IT and security directors conducted by CDW-G.

The survey measures 10 indicators and four “contraindicators” and sets a national benchmark that gauges the current state of school security.

It found that in the last 12 months, 55 percent of districts reported experiencing an IT breach, including unauthorized user access, hacking, or a virus. Sixty-seven percent experienced a physical breach, such as an unauthorized person in the school building or vandalism.

Despite increases in the number of reported security breaches, three-quarters of survey respondents rated their cyber and physical security measures as adequate.

Most IT breaches reported in the survey originated internally–41 percent from students and 22 percent from staff or employees. Districts reported that physical security breaches are caused by unidentified persons 42 percent of the time and by students 37 percent of the time.

And remaining unchanged for the third year in a row are districts’ top IT and physical security barriers: lack of funding, too few staff resources, and the need for more security tools.

CDW-G conducted this year’s survey with the goal of understanding not only what tools schools are using, but how they are implementing those tools and how school leaders view the state of school security today, said Bob Kirby, vice president of K-12 education for CDW-G.

“Districts reported gains in important areas such as securing buildings and networks, but many are missing the opportunity to counter increased breaches by sharing best practices with other districts and engaging district administrators regularly on security priorities and investments,” Kirby said.

The 2009 School Safety Index found that, on a scale of zero to 100 (where zero indicates the lowest security level and 100 indicates the highest), the national cyber security average is 22.2. That’s down from 38.6 in last year’s survey. Eighty-eight percent of responding districts are using wireless networks, and 92 percent are using some type of encryption to protect data. Sixty-five percent of schools that do not currently have wireless networks are considering or will implement one within the next year.

Laura Ascione

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