Aspire Acts Quickly to Bolster School District’s Defense Against Ransomware and Other Cyber Security Threats

Industry: K-12 Education

Practice Area: Cyber Security

The client is the fourth largest public school district in New Jersey, serving students in pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. The district is comprised of 34 schools with 2,100 classroom teachers serving 26,000 students.  One of 31 former Abbott districts statewide now referred to as “SDA Districts”, the state covers all costs for school building and renovation projects, as well as provides funding to ensure students receive educational resources at the average level of the state’s wealthiest districts.

Challenge: Ransomware poses threat to school district

Malware and ransomware had recently hit the school district’s local city government and police department. The ransomware virus would either lock computers or encrypt files – essentially holding all computers or files for ransom until a fee was paid to the virus writer. Fearing that the attackers would target the school district next, the client needed to take preventative measures immediately to protect student, faculty, and other sensitive data from ransomware—on, and off campus. They lacked adequate protection, as well as visibility into malware, phishing attempts, and command & control attacks that could target Internet-connected devices.

Solution: Enforcement built into the foundation of the Internet

Within twenty-four hours of hearing the client’s concerns, Aspire was onsite to implement Cisco Umbrella as a proof of concept. With no hardware to install or software to maintain, Umbrella uses the Internet’s DNS infrastructure to block malicious destinations before a connection is ever established. Within thirty minutes of set-up, IT administrators had visibility into malware in their environment and were able to seamlessly extend web filtering and Internet security to all devices, even those that leave campus. Upon completion of the proof of concept, Aspire shared metrics from the Umbrella trial period with the client. The reporting showed numerous potential threats blocked, provided context to show areas that needed to be fixed, and made the decision to move forward with the solution an easy one.

Outcome: Eliminating gaps in visibility and coverage

Cisco Umbrella became the school district’s first line of defense, blocking threats before they became attacks, and securing students and staff anywhere they go. The built-in roaming client provided web filtering and protection for all Internet-connected devices inside and outside the district. In addition, the solution allowed enforcement of school district policy across all devices with Active Directory integration. Cisco Umbrella also has an extension for ChromeBooks that allowed IT administrators to tie an ID to an IP address to better track students.

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