District Administration - March 2011 - (Page 19)
MOST OF US ARE FAMILIAR WITH the damaging consequences of computer viruses such as freezing worms and Trojan horses. Another set of devious hacking forces, however, known as botnets, have caused districts to re-evaluate their online security measures. A botnet is a network of computers controlled remotely by hackers and infected with malware. Unlike other viruses, botnets do not run on autopilot once they gain access. ey inﬁltrate computers, usually via e-mail, and they take advantage of the aﬀected computers’ Web browser vulnerabilities while spreading spam and viruses. According to Christopher Schabel, solutions architect at CDW-G, which provides technology products and support for government and education agencies, computers taken over by a botnet are known as “zombie” computers, and the hacker can then gain access to certain programs or send out spam e-mails. “It’s really an a la carte virus,” says Schabel. “It’s the hackers’ choice to pick and choose what they want to do once on the computer.” For school districts, the implications could be a severe breach of information security. “Once they gain access, at that point they have the keys to the kingdom,” says Lenny Schad, chief information oﬃcer at Katy (Texas) Independent School District. “ ey can get into student management software, grading software, our ﬁnancial system, or any program on that machine. It’s really a huge risk.” While Katy ISD has not come under a botnet attack, the district has taken proactive steps to prevent one. “Taking Steps Toward Bot Preparedness,” a report by Peyton Engel, technical architect with CDW-G, outlines key steps for districts to take to prevent an attack: install a Windows ﬁrewall, disable auto run, break password trusts, consider network
By Marion Herbert
Is Your District Protected from Botnets?
compartmentalization, provide the least amount of privilege allowable to users, ﬁlter data leaving the network use a proxy server, and monitor DNS queries. “We’re proactive, but we’re not bulletproof,” says Schad. “I think the single biggest eﬀect [of a botnet attack] would be the loss of the community’s conﬁdence in the school system.” Schad says that both teachers and students at Katy ISD are taught to be digital citizens and to learn about the risks of not changing passwords and of opening e-mail attachments.
Ohio District Asks Snowbound Students to Log On
THE 700 STUDENTS THAT ATTEND Mississinawa Valley (Ohio) Schools now have some work to do on their snow days. Only three “calamity days” are allowed, instead of the usual ﬁve, and two days will become “eDays,” in which all K12 students will spend their time working on online lessons created by their teachers. This was made possible after the Ohio Department of Education in September allowed the district to adopt this change. On the fourth and ﬁfth calamity days, students will log on to the district’s Web site and follow their class’s eDay lesson plans and assessments. If the district does not use all ﬁve calamity days, its April vacation will be extended, and students can use their eDays then. According to Superintendent Lisa Wendel, however, the transition is about much more than reducing snow days. “This is a chance to extend and advance education technologically. Change needs a reason, and calamity days were our reason,” says Wendel. Fifty-two percent of the district’s students receive free or reducedprice lunches, and an informal poll revealed that 89 percent of students have access to the Internet outside of school. Students are given two weeks to complete their eDay assignments, and during this time the district provides evening transportation to complete the assignments after school. “We have a large population of students without Internet access,” says Wendel. “They need access to online learning opportunities more. This forces teachers to develop it and provide it.” According to Wendel, aside from a few phone calls from concerned parents, the program has generally been well received by families and the teachers’ union. Wendel hopes the district can continue to use online courses and eventually individualize learning. “When you talk about technology, the opportunities are endless,” she says.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration - March 2011
District Administration - March 2011
From the Editor
Learning Gets Personal
What’s Your Data Integration Strategy?
Global Learning Scales Up
New Approach to Reeling in Tech Funding
Facilities of Environmental Distinction
District Administration - March 2011