Traditional or Next Gen Firewalls Not Enough to Protect Our Students and District Resources

Although Firewalls have been the solution many school districts have relied upon to protect networks against suspicious activity on school networks, they can’t protect against the tremendous increase of cyberattacks impacting our K-12 community. Although most districts are using some kind of firewall, most have moved instruction to cloud-based applications, with no significant cloud security layer to protect the tremendous amount of student-sensitive data stored in G Suite or Office 365 for Education; to name just a few of the cloud applications districts now rely upon.

The Common Misconceptions

A significant difference and looming security gap exist between on-premises servers, networks, and cloud applications. Traditional or next-gen firewalls must be more robust in securing data stored or accessed in the cloud. As we’ve learned through many K-12 cyberattacks, the misconception that the vendors’ native cloud security features are inadequate is untrue.

The Government Accountability Office Warns K-12 Cyber Incidents Increasing

The GAO reports K-12 institutions are not adequately securing student data, and they concluded that thousands of K-12 students had their personal information compromised in data breaches between 2016 and 2020. Compromised data included grades, bullying reports, and Social Security numbers – leaving students vulnerable to emotional, physical, and financial harm. Breaches were accidental and intentional with a variety of responsible actors and motives, and wealthier, larger, and suburban school districts were more likely to have a reported breach.

The national movement to embrace remote learning has left many IT teams believing their firewall or web content filter is sufficient to secure data and monitor for cyber safety; that’s simply not the case. Using content filtering and firewalls have produced significant security gaps in district cybersecurity infrastructure. Traditional or next-generation firewalls have yet to meet K-12 schools’ requirements to utilize cloud applications for instruction and general school district operations.

Top Firewall Concerns for K-12 IT Leaders

Current challenges K-12 IT leaders face include needing more staffing and time as traditional firewalls alert administrators of issues. Still, there are no proactive/automated mechanisms to remediate, requiring IT staff to act on those alerts. Many districts need more time and expertise to monitor and react to firewall alerts. In addition, it’s expensive to utilize traditional or next-gen firewalls to their fullest. Although standard firewalls provide some intrusion detection or prevention, capabilities such as data loss prevention and decryption are often add-on services that many districts cannot afford.

Additionally, districts need help to address security gaps produced when students or employees leave school. For schools without a 1:1 program, students use their personal devices to access resources stored in cloud applications, including the school’s G Suite or Office 365 environments. Lastly, traditional or next–gen firewalls require data backhauling, which presents additional security vulnerabilities and poor user experience.

School Districts Embrace Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

Taking traditional or next-gen firewalls into the future today requires an enterprise solution capable of a next-generation, military-grade, cloud-based firewall platform that enables schools to eliminate purchasing and managing multiple legacy technologies, including Internet web filters.

To learn more about what your district can do to close the security gaps traditional or next gen firewalls produce, visit For Education – iboss .

Written by Richard Quinones
iboss Senior Vice President for Education