School board looking at cyber security options after malware attack

Houston County seeking advice after after school malware attack

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Several Houston County schools are still working to get everything restored after July’s cyber security breach.

Superintendent David Sewell confirms Ashford Elementary, Webb Elementary, Rehobeth Elementary and Rehobeth Middle still face internet issues. While teachers and office personnel have access to internet outside the school system’s network, students don’t. The system is still working to bring all of the cafeterias back online. Sewell expects that to be complete by next week.

As work continues at schools, the system is working to prevent something like this from happening again.

During Monday’s board meeting, school leaders heard from Birmingham based data security firm, ControlAltProtect. Sewell says they’re exploring what options are available with the firm to protect sensitive information.

“We’re looking at a service that will help us keep the bad guys out,” said Sewell.

Brent Panell, CEO and Founder of ControlAtlProtect, says the Houston County School System is one of many systems that has reached out recently.

“We’re seeing an increase in schools interest in growing their data security and I think that’s because they’re getting hit,” said Panell.

Panell says the reason schools are getting hit with malware attacks is because many don’t have the infrastructure to protect against it and hackers know that.

“The days of ‘I have a firewall, I have antivirus software,’ those days are long gone. Those are no longer vital. They’re part of a defensive layer, but those alone are just not enough with today’s sophisticated hacking,” said Panell.

He notes school systems have an increased vulnerability because of the amount of access for students and teachers to plug-in: iPads, Chromebooks, computer work stations.

Panell suggests systems work with data security companies to perform an assessment of their cyber infrastructure and create a layered and segmented security system to plug the holes.

“Information is power. With your data, I can affect you operationally, reputationally, and financially. There’s not many items I can grasp and control that are much more important than your data,” said Panell.

He also noted a need for increased funding for school systems so that they can protect against cyber attacks.

Sewell didn’t have exact numbers yet on the cost of the new cyber security proposal, but he said the board will discuss funding and implementation.

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