What to Expect in Cybersecurity, Education IT and the Post-Pandemic Future 

School IT teams did remote – as doors open, now they’re doing in-person or hybrid.

GUEST COLUMN | by Heather Paunet

As budgets continue to be a barrier for most school districts and educational institutions, this past year saw a particular delay of IT-related projects due to COVID-19. Most if not all districts have found themselves overwhelmed by the sudden requirement to move schooling online – supporting their students with tools and resources – while attempting to stay within unforeseen budget restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Due to this heavy transition of resources, many update or upgrade projects for IT security solutions were postponed until the next fiscal year. 

School closures across the country and a lack of in-person learning due to the coronavirus is “a national emergency,” according to President Joe Biden. And with the vaccine rolling out across the nation, we are already seeing plans to try and safely re-open schools. 

‘As the push to reopen schools is underway, networks will continue to become more complex…’

With school IT teams having been pulled in one direction to push things remote, and now needing to push everything back to in-person and/or hybrid learning, what should these teams be monitoring for, when it comes to IT security, when the doors do reopen?

Preparing for the Wave of BYOD 

As more devices and device types creep onto campus, network administrators need to find ways to safely allow these devices to connect without potentially harming the main school network.

For example, students will continue to bring different mobile devices on campus. These devices should ideally connect to a secondary WiFi network, outside of the main school network, to ensure that these devices can be monitored, social media networks can be blocked during school hours, and that any file sharing done outside of the school doesn’t impact the network when on campus. 

Keeping up with Bandwidth and Connectivity 

When it comes to higher education campuses in particular, network administrators are constantly looking for ways to adapt to the bandwidth needs of not only students but buildings, departments, and other IoT devices. Many university campuses have adopted machine learning or AI-based devices to keep student and campus data safe, or have installed new technologies to connect learning with other classrooms outside of the immediate campus, all while making sure that every cafe, library, or study hall location provides high-speed connectivity. 

As the push to reopen schools is underway, networks will continue to become more complex and with this complexity there is an increased need for network management in real time with granular visibility to make adjustments as needed. 

Additionally, schools, districts, and other educational institutions will need to take a long look at their current connectivity solutions. It has become invaluable that students find continuity between in-classroom and distance learning and providing secure connectivity solutions is one vital way schools can guarantee that happens. 

Investing in Endpoint Security 

The culmination of all these needs requires IT teams now, more than ever, to be vigilant and prepared when it comes to endpoint security. Endpoint security monitors all devices that connect to the network, meaning laptops, mobile devices, tables, or desktops that are being used for any learning purpose is being monitored for malware or viruses.

Effective security calls for tight coordination and communication between the endpoint and the next generation firewall at the network gateway. This can be most effectively done with a cloud-based management platform that allows for visibility to flow between both security solutions. Using a solution that allows these systems to speak to each other, showcase visibility, and effectively alert network administrators creates a best in breed solution.

Education IT departments can address the security gaps by integrating a next generation firewall and endpoint security solution in a way that provides comprehensive, network-wide visibility and protection.

Heather Paunet is Senior VP of Product and Marketing at Untangle, responsible for building the right products for customers, taking into account customer needs and market trends. Write to: [email protected]

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