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A Hard Study in Ransomware: Education Being Held Hostage

There’s been a dramatic rise in ransomware attacks on educational institutional networks, whether K12 schools and districts or higher education colleges and universities. Academic and administrative services have been locked up, and cumulative ransomware costs running in the millions.

According to the mid-year update of the 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, despite overall declines in malware volume, ransomware continues to pay dividends for cybercriminals. All told, global ransomware volume reached 110.9 million for the first half of 2019, a 15% year-to-date increase.

Ransomware targeting schools, colleges more than a trend

Apart from the direct financial damage caused by ransomware attacks (for example, the Rockville Center School District paid $88,000 in ransom), the inability to access computer systems paralyses the academic institution. The cost of the damage only accelerates the longer the university is unable to send emails, record working hours or allocate classrooms and study resources, including university computers and internet access necessary for many learning activities.

Educational institutions that refuse to pay can be incapacitated for extended periods of time — like Walcott County, Connecticut, which suffered a ransomware attack three months ago and was locked out of its affected devices until early September 2019, when the ransom payment was finally approved by the county board. In other cases, districts chose to rebuild infected systems and were similarly delayed.

“It’s a deliberate and strategic shift from hospitals and other soft targets to K12 districts and schools, where security controls and technology resources aren’t as always as robust despite housing some of the most sensitive and private data,” SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner wrote for Forbes. “It’s so common now that discussions about ransomware attacks have moved from the board room to the principal’s office and PTA meetings. But conversations need to turn into action.”

The infamous Emotet malware has also been striking schools, with attackers using spearphishing to infect systems with the malware trojan. As many services are now entirely computerized, this can even affect infrastructure like heating and cooling, cafeteria services and security systems. The K-12 Cyber Incidents map provides a graphic overview of just how widespread the problem is.

As noted by SonicWall technology partner Sentinel One, last September, just when teachers, parents and children across the nation were looking forward to the beginning of the school year, parents in New York’s Orange County received an unwelcome announcement. The superintendent of Monroe-Woodbury school district had been forced to inform them that the school would remain closed as a result of a cyberattack that had disrupted the district’s computer systems.

Monroe-Woodbury is just one of the many schools and educational institutions in the United States and throughout the world whose operations have been disrupted by cybercriminals. Earlier, in the summer, Rockville and Mineola school districts were targeted with Ryuk ransomware. In all, over 500 attacks against U.S. public schools have been reported in 2019 to date.

In addition, many U.S. universities and colleges have suffered from ransomware attacks, information leaks and email hacking in the past year. Universities and academic institutes are being targeted by more sophisticated attackers interested in stealing the intellectual property (IP) and research data that they produce.

Ransomware locked onto schools globally, too

The situation in other parts of the world is as bad. In Australia, the head of the local intelligence agency was recruited to inform universities about cyber threats and ways of prevention. This was one of the initiatives put in place after an extremely sophisticated threat actor compromised ANU and persisted within the university’s network for months at a time.

In the U.K. in April 2019, penetration testing conducted by JISC, the government agency that provides many computerized services to U.K. academic bodies, tested the defenses of over 50 British universities. The results were unflattering: the pen testers scored 100% success rate, gaining access to every single system they tested. Defense systems were bypassed in as little as an hour in some cases, with the ethical hackers easily able to gain access to information such as research data, financial systems as well as staff and student personal information.

Ransomware analysis: common threads

It is no coincidence that universities are among the most attacked. Higher education institutions manage substantial sums of money, store personal information for students and teachers and connect with many external bodies and providers and, of course, parents, who primarily communicate with the school via email. This means that the school has a very large attack surface.

“It is too easy to demand and receive ransom payment without the risks associated with traditional data exfiltration,” Conner said when more than 20 Texas state agencies were affected with ransomware. “Until organizations are serious about ransomware protection, these types of wide-reaching ransomware attacks will, unfortunately, continue. As we’ve witnessed past year, ransomware attacks are highly disruptive. Today’s distributed networks can be compromised in minutes. Everyday operations are then held for ransom at high costs.”

Coupled with enticing rewards is the fact that students make for easy victims of phishing scams, too. Students’ lack of experience combined with a tendency to use simple passwords across multiple services makes them prone to credential harvesting and password-spraying attacks. In one incident in September 2019, over 3,000 Kent State student emails were hacked in this way. In addition, the awareness of parents, teachers and faculty regarding cyber risks is often much lower in education than in other sectors.

Ransomware no longer infects a singular device but often multiple devices with the intent to infect the entire network. First made infamous with the WannaCry attack, ransomware authors now try to leverage vulnerabilities like SMB in Windows to spread to other drives. Not all computers are up to date and this leaves an opportunity to not only infect that device but to also infect others.

Some academic institutions are rich in data and poor in security, which makes them a prime target.  They also have student information, including grades, which are vital to their future endeavors, plus some jurisdictions must keep this data for up to 100 years.

Institutions that worked to digitize older records — and without proper backups in place — may be at risk of losing this data or having to go back and digitize them again. Educational organizations must continually keep everything backed up with those backups off the network whether it is on LTO tape or in the cloud.

Further exacerbating the security situation is that educational establishments typically have limited staff dedicated to security. Unlike banks, schools typically do not have dedicated information security personnel who are engaged in 24/7 protection.

‘You’ve got ransomware’

Most ransomware attacks come unsolicited in email. They come in attachments with subject lines such as:

  • Here is my resume
  • This is an unpaid invoice
  • Here is the invoice for your flight, package, etc. (in hopes people will be shocked into thinking their credit card info was stolen).

Malicious URLs are also used. They will look like real URLs but lead to other places on the dark web. Common subject lines are:

  • Your card has been charged, please review
  • Is this you in this video?
  • Your package has arrived

Ransomware protection: best practices

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends the following precautions to protect users against the threat of ransomware:

  • Update software and operating systems with the latest patches. Outdated applications and operating systems are the target of most attacks.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Backup data on a regular basis. Keep it on a separate device and store it offline.
  • Follow safe practices when browsing the Internet.

CISA also recommends that organizations employ the following best practices:

  • Restrict users’ permissions to install and run software applications and apply the principle of “least privilege” to all systems and services. Restricting these privileges may prevent malware from running or limit its capability to spread through a network.
  • Use application whitelisting to allow only approved programs to run on a network.
  • Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching the end users and authenticate inbound email to prevent email spoofing.
  • Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files from reaching end users.
  • Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.

In addition, SonicWall suggests the following best practice steps:

Unfortunately, with differing approaches on responding to ransomware demand being driven by budget and resources, cybercriminals have found education to be a lucrative target for ransomware attacks. While these ransomware attacks are widespread, there are commonalities to consider. It is critical to be prepared by implementing known best practices and the latest ransomware countermeasures.

E-rate Funding 2020: Use It or Lose It?

The new FCC Report & Order on the U.S. government’s E-rate rules of engagement for 2020 and beyond are here. And it includes some critical E-rate funding changes that could impact current K-12 budgets.

First, this highly anticipated order permanently locks in Category Two (CAT2) funding for the E-rate program. Many rumors were flying around that E-rate program funding for infrastructure was going away. Well, we have our answer: it is here to stay!

Another critical change of the E-rate program concerns budgets. E-rate budgets begin a new cycle that will be in subsequent five-year periods starting in 2021.

What does that mean to schools and libraries participating in the program? Essentially, if a school or library is sitting on a bucket of CAT2 monies from the 2015-2020 season, then they must spend it now in E-rate 2020 or they will lose that funding (exact date to be released in January). This means there are millions of dollars sitting idle that schools and libraries must take advantage of this funding period.

Don’t lose E-rate 2020 funding

Now is the time for schools to act. There will undoubtedly be a tidal wave of applications to surge in the coming weeks. This E-rate season has been slow for Form 470 postings compared to past years and the delay in the Order has created a ‘watch-and-wait-to-post’ environment.

This delay created a short window for schools and libraries to act upon their funding requests. But when will the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) start the clock on Form 471 posting season? Usually this would happen mid-January. With the rules of engagement posting so late in the year, will the E-rate 2020 season extend beyond March? We should know more soon.

What is E-rate?

To help offset funding and staffing shortages, the U.S. Department of Education and the FCC launched the E-rate program, which helps make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools, campuses, districts and libraries.

The E-rate program is operated by the USAC, which has a core focus of providing underfunded verticals the access to affordable technology and security services. This includes schools, libraries, rural healthcare organizations and more. USAC provides a yearly Eligible Services List (ESL), which outlines which types of products and services can be procured via E-rate program discounts.

SonicWall and E-rate

Through its global channel of more than 21,000 technology partners, SonicWall is actively involved in helping K-12 education organizations cost-effectively obtain and deploy network security solutions. SonicWall provides a broad array of E-rate-eligible products and services, including firewalls and turnkey Security-as-a-Service solutions.

SonicWall integrated solutions meet the needs of school districts at the highest efficacy and at price points that fit within K-12 budget constraints. SonicWall helps reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) for these under-funded organizations.

With the most comprehensive channel program in the industry, combined with additional E-rate discounts, SonicWall and our partners are best positioned to meet the needs of K-12 customers and help them take full advantage of the funding E-rate provides for securing their networks.

If you are an eligible K-12 organization, please contact your preferred SonicWall reseller for information on E-rate benefits and discounts, or visit the SonicWall E-rate page for information, tools and guidance.

For more information on applying for E-rate funding, watch SonicWall’s step-by-step video series. Or, you can submit a request to talk to a SonicWall E-rate expert now.

Navigating the E-rate Program

5 Best Practices for Fast, Secure Wi-Fi on K-12 Campuses

When I was a high school student, bringing a smartphone into classrooms was not permitted. If you were caught with any electronic device, it would be confiscated. Pronto.

In this new digital era, schools are embracing this transformation everywhere. Classrooms are changing, with Wi-Fi being the primary form of internet access. Students, faculty and guests also use more than one device at a time, including laptops, tablets, wearables and smartphones. As the number of devices grow, it becomes critical to plan your K-12 networks effectively and future-proof it to be able to implement newer and safer technology.

If you’re expanding, upgrading or building a secure wireless network for K-12 campus or districts, review these five helpful best practices.

Plan for density

Secure Wi-Fi networks are often planned based on coverage. If the wireless signal simply covers a classroom it does not signify that it can actually handle the device density in that room. With students and faculty using multiple devices, the number of devices connected to a particular wireless access point increases. Ensure that you are prepared for max traffic density in your classroom — and across the entire campus.

How? As a first approach, ensure you have sufficient coverage and layer this with density. Use a site survey tool like the SonicWall WiFi Planner to make this process easier to visualize. Next, estimate where you find max device density, peak traffic and plan your Wi-Fi deployment around this.

Go cloud

More applications and functions are moving to the cloud (or are likely already there). For K-12 schools untethering Wi-Fi from their wireless controller or firewalls, the cloud offers powerful infrastructure and applications to simplify management and security.

By going this route, K-12 districts and schools have the flexibility to manage wireless security solutions from the cloud, scale limitlessly and also drive down TCO.

How? Transition to a cloud-managed wireless solution. The SonicWall wireless solution can be managed by the WiFi Cloud Manager, which is a scalable, centralized Wi-Fi network management system, simplifying wireless access, control and troubleshooting capabilities across networks of any size or region.

Accessible through SonicWall Capture Security Center (CSC), WiFi Cloud Manager unifies multiple tenants, locations and zones while simultaneously supporting tens of thousands of SonicWave wireless access points.

Single-pane-of-glass management

Managing multiple management dashboards is challenging as there is a high risk of things falling through the cracks. To avoid this and to streamline the process it is essential to have a single-pane-of-glass management system with real-time analytics to capture threats and abnormalities in your network. This type of management saves you time and helps you become proactive rather than reactive.

How? Empower yourself with the right management solution to govern your entire network security ecosystem from a single dashboard. Capture Security Center is a scalable cloud-based security management system that’s a built-in, ready-to-use component of your SonicWall product or service.

Capture Security Center features single sign-on (SSO) and single-pane-of-glass management. It integrates the functionality of the Capture Cloud Platform to deliver robust security management, analytics and real-time threat intelligence for your entire portfolio of network, email, mobile and cloud security resources.

Enable content filtering

Wi-Fi is an easy gateway for malicious attacks. It must be protected with the right encryption and security mechanisms. Create granular policies to ensure that students are protected against malicious and non-reputable websites.

How? Ensure that you enable content filtering on your network. SonicWall provides a Content Filtering Service (CFS) that compares requested sites against a massive database in the cloud containing millions of rated URLs, IP addresses and domains. It provides administrators with the tools to create and apply policies that allow or deny access to sites based on individual or group identity, or by time of day, for over 50 pre-defined categories.

Future-proof with the latest technology

Ensure that you deploy the latest wireless technology in your schools. Future-proofing secure Wi-Fi is the best way to ensure that you get your money’s worth in the long term while providing the best user experience.

How? This does not mean you have to rip and replace your entire existing network. It could be a gradual approach, wherein you upgrade only critical units based on your needs. Build your network on the latest certified wireless standard: 802.11ac wave 2. Future-proof with wireless access points that are 802.11ac Wave 2-capable.

Adhering to these best practices will make your WiFi network efficient and secure — all while saving you time and money.

The E-rate ‘Fear Less’ Technology Infrastructure

Before you begin the RFP process, it’s important to explore the technology infrastructure (specifically what’s eligible in Category Two) as defined within the E-rate program by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) and how each relates to the E-rate funding process.

Episode 4: The E-rate Fear Less Technology Infrastructure

On the fourth episode of the E-rate Fear Less series, Holly Davis dives further into the program and reviews other options school districts have in building a secure, future-proof network with the E-rate program.

At a high level, E-rate Category Two technology in three primary pillars. Category Two components are those that relate to cyber security solutions, hardware, software and other services. For more details about E-rate categories, please review the 2019 Eligible Services List (PDF).

Technology Function
Broadband Internal Connections (IC) On-premise solution internally managed; equipment may be owned or leased.
Managed Internal Broadband Services (MIBS) Managed service solution owned, leased or hosted in the cloud.
Basic Maintenance
of Broadband Internal Connections
Support for the IC solution.
Source: 2019 Eligible Services List (PDF)

E-rate Category 2 technology funding with SonicWall

School and campus networks range in size and manage different types of sensitive data. Mitigating potential weak points in the network — and the data that can be targeted — is no easy task for standard IT teams that haven’t undergone extensive cyber security training. SonicWall network and cyber security solutions meet the needs of school districts at the highest efficacy — all at price points that fit within K-12 budgets.

If you are utilizing E-rate funding to assist you in buying your networking and cyber security solutions, SonicWall can help. Our team of E-rate funding experts ensure your SonicWall solution aligns with the rules and regulations of the E-rate program.

SonicWall Security as a Service (SECaaS) is an alternative solution for schools that do not have a large capital outlay to invest in a future-proof security solution or a dedicated IT team trained to manage cyber security.

“Security-as-a-Service provides more flexibility,” said Jenna Burros, Director of Business Services, at the Calistoga Joint Unified School District in California. “It is such an improvement to be able to have enough control to differentiate various levels of accessibility.”

Under Burros’ guidance, the California school district upgraded the flexibility and granularity of its existing content-filtering solution, while also keeping costs at minimum — a key obstacle for K-12 organizations regardless of E-rate eligibility.

With the most comprehensive channel program in the industry, combined with additional E-rate discounts, SonicWall and its partners are best positioned to meet the needs of K-12 customers and help them take full advantage of the funding E-rate provides for securing their networks.

If you are an eligible K-12 organization, please contact your preferred SonicWall reseller for information on E-rate benefits and discounts, or visit the SonicWall E-rate page for information, tools and guidance.

E-rate Episode Video Series for K-12 School Districts

What is E-rate?

To help offset funding and staffing shortages, the U.S. Department of Education and the FCC launched the E-rate program, which helps make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools, campuses, districts and libraries.

The E-rate program is operated by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which has a core focus of providing underfunded organizations access to affordable technology and security services. This includes schools, libraries and rural healthcare organizations.

USAC provides a yearly Eligible Services List (ESL), which outlines which types of products and services can be procured via E-rate program discounts.

Applicant Steps & Resources

Prep: Before You Begin
Step 1: Competitive Bidding
Step 2: Selecting Service Providers
Step 3: Applying for Discounts
Step 4: Application Review
Step 5: Starting Services
Step 6:  Invoicing 

Resources provided by USAC

The E-rate ‘Fear Less’ Solution

The E-rate program is critical for K-12 organizations that lack the funding to procure appropriate technology, such as networking and cyber security solutions (e.g., firewalls, wireless network security, etc.). But understanding the program — as well as confirming your E-rate eligibility — can be daunting.

Episode 3: The E-rate Fear Less Solution

On the third episode of the E-rate Fear Less series, Komplement CEO Holly Davis discusses school eligibility, discounts levels and the competitive bidding process.

E-rate discounts are based on the category of service requested, level of poverty, urban/rural status of the population served and the level of participation of students in the Nation School Lunch Program (NSLP).

  • School districts derive their discount, for purposes of determining their level of poverty, from the total percentage of students eligible for the NSLP in the school district.
  • Libraries derive their discount, for purposes of determining their level of poverty, from the NSLP eligibility percentage of the public-school district in which the main branch of the library is located.
  • Rural discount eligibility is determined at the school district or library system level. If more than 50 percent of the schools in a school district or libraries in a library system are considered rural, the district or system is eligible for the rural discount. Note: Non-instructional facilities (NIFs) are not included in this percentage calculation.

Once eligibility is confirmed, it is very important to understand that the government requires a fair and competitive bidding process. Please contact a SonicWall E-rate expert to help guide your organization through the rules and guidelines of the E-rate process.

E-rate technology discounts with SonicWall

Applicant Steps & Resources

Prep: Before You Begin
Step 1: Competitive Bidding
Step 2: Selecting Service Providers
Step 3: Applying for Discounts
Step 4: Application Review
Step 5: Starting Services
Step 6: Invoicing

Resources provided by USAC

SonicWall network and cyber security solutions meet the needs of school districts at the highest efficacy — all at price points that fit within K12 budgets.

If you are utilizing E-rate funding to assist you in buying your networking and cyber security solutions, SonicWall can help. Our team of E-rate funding experts ensure your SonicWall solution aligns with the rules and regulations of the E-rate program. SonicWall provides services in the following areas:

  • Managed Internal Broadband Services
  • Internal Connections
  • Basic Maintenance for Internal Connections

With the most comprehensive channel program in the industry, combined with additional E-rate discounts, SonicWall and its partners are best positioned to meet the needs of K12 customers and help them take full advantage of the funding E-rate provides for securing their networks.

If you are an eligible K12 organization, please contact your preferred SonicWall reseller for information on E-rate benefits and discounts, or visit the SonicWall E-rate page for information, tools and guidance.

E-rate Episode Video Series for K-12 School Districts


Know the E-rate Terminology

The E-rate program is replete of acronyms, form numbers and other unique nomenclature. Learn the key terms to successfully guide your K12 organization through the E-rate process.

What is E-rate?

To help offset funding and staffing shortages, the U.S. Department of Education and the FCC launched the E-rate program, which helps make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools, campuses, districts and libraries.

The E-rate program is operated by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which has a core focus of providing underfunded verticals the access to affordable technology and security services. This includes schools, libraries, rural healthcare organizations and more.

USAC provides a yearly Eligible Services List (ESL), which outlines which types of products and services can be procured via E-rate program discounts.

Navigating the E-rate Program: Forms, Filling Cycles & Rules

Participating in your first E-rate season can be overwhelming. It is important to understand eligibility requirements of the program since the forms and terminology can become confusing. To better understand the ins and outs of the E-rate program, watch Episode 2 of the SonicWall E-rate video series below.

Episode 2: Navigating the E-rate Program

On the second episode of the E-rate Fear Less series, Komplement CEO Holly Davis highlights key elements of the E-rate program to help you navigate the process. You will learn about the filling cycle, ESL, 470 and 471 forms, and rules of the program.

Before you get started, it’s important to remember some key dates. First, the E-rate program operates on a fiscal year (FY) calendar. This year, FY2020 is July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. From here, there are two primary dates to remember:

  • 470 Filing: July 1, 2019 (RFP Posting)
  • 471 Filing: January 11, 2020-March 22, 2020

Applicant Steps & Resources

Prep: Before You Begin
Step 1: Competitive Bidding
Step 2: Selecting Service Providers
Step 3: Applying for Discounts
Step 4: Application Review
Step 5: Starting Services
Step 6: Invoicing 

Resources provided by USAC

Each year, before the FCC Form 471 application filing window opens, the FCC releases Eligible Services List (ESL) for the upcoming funding year (it is typically released between September and November).

The ESL contains a description of the products and services that will be eligible for discounts, along with additional helpful information such as eligibility conditions for each category of service for each specified funding year.

Be sure to review the list before you post a form 470 request for services to properly align your products and service needs.

SonicWall and E-rate

Through its global channel of more than 23,000 technology partners, SonicWall is actively involved in helping K-12 education organizations cost-effectively obtain and deploy network security solutions. SonicWall provides a broad array of E-rate-eligible products and services, including firewalls and turnkey Security-as-a-Service solutions.

SonicWall can discuss its products and services prior to the posting of a school/library Form 470, which begins the competitive bidding process. Once Form 470 is filed, SonicWall and its partners are restricted to rules and regulations of the program and are respondents to the bidding.

If you are utilizing E-rate funding to assist you in buying your networking and cyber security solutions, SonicWall can help. Our team of E-rate funding experts ensure your SonicWall solution aligns with the rules and regulations of the E-rate program. SonicWall provides services in the following areas:

  • Managed Internal Broadband Services
  • Internal Connections
  • Basic Maintenance for Internal Connections

SonicWall integrated solutions meet the needs of school districts at the highest efficacy and at price points that fit within K-12 budget constraints. SonicWall helps reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) for these under-funded organizations.

If you are an eligible K-12 organization, please contact your preferred SonicWall reseller for information on E-rate benefits and discounts, or visit the SonicWall E-rate page for information, tools and guidance.

What is E-rate?

To help offset funding and staffing shortages, the U.S. Department of Education and the FCC launched the E-rate program, which helps make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools, campuses, districts and libraries.

“Eligible schools and libraries may receive discounts on telecommunications, telecommunications services and internet access, as well as internal connections, managed internal broadband services and basic maintenance of internal connections,” explains the FCC website. “Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, with higher discounts for higher poverty and rural schools and libraries. Recipients must pay some portion of the service costs.”

The E-rate program is operated by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which has a core focus of providing underfunded verticals the access to affordable technology and security services. This includes schools, libraries, rural healthcare organizations and more.

USAC provides a yearly Eligible Services List (ESL), which outlines which types of products and services can be procured via E-rate program discounts.

E-rate Episode Video Series for K-12 School Districts

The E-rate ‘Fear Less’ Technology Infrastructure

Before you begin the RFP process, it’s important to explore the technology infrastructure (specifically what’s eligible in Category Two) as defined within the E-rate program by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) and how each relates to the E-rate funding process.

Episode 4: The E-rate Fear Less Technology Infrastructure

On the fourth episode of the E-rate Fear Less series, Holly Davis dives further into the program and reviews other options school districts have in building a secure, future-proof network with the E-rate program.

At a high level, E-rate Category Two technology in three primary pillars. Category Two components are those that relate to cyber security solutions, hardware, software and other services. For more details about E-rate categories, please review the 2019 Eligible Services List (PDF).

Technology Function
Broadband Internal Connections (IC) On-premise solution internally managed; equipment may be owned or leased.
Managed Internal Broadband Services (MIBS) Managed service solution owned, leased or hosted in the cloud.
Basic Maintenance
of Broadband Internal Connections
Support for the IC solution.
Source: 2019 Eligible Services List (PDF)

E-rate Category 2 technology funding with SonicWall

School and campus networks range in size and manage different types of sensitive data. Mitigating potential weak points in the network — and the data that can be targeted — is no easy task for standard IT teams that haven’t undergone extensive cyber security training. SonicWall network and cyber security solutions meet the needs of school districts at the highest efficacy — all at price points that fit within K-12 budgets.

If you are utilizing E-rate funding to assist you in buying your networking and cyber security solutions, SonicWall can help. Our team of E-rate funding experts ensure your SonicWall solution aligns with the rules and regulations of the E-rate program.

SonicWall Security as a Service (SECaaS) is an alternative solution for schools that do not have a large capital outlay to invest in a future-proof security solution or a dedicated IT team trained to manage cyber security.

“Security-as-a-Service provides more flexibility,” said Jenna Burros, Director of Business Services, at the Calistoga Joint Unified School District in California. “It is such an improvement to be able to have enough control to differentiate various levels of accessibility.”

Under Burros’ guidance, the California school district upgraded the flexibility and granularity of its existing content-filtering solution, while also keeping costs at minimum — a key obstacle for K-12 organizations regardless of E-rate eligibility.

With the most comprehensive channel program in the industry, combined with additional E-rate discounts, SonicWall and its partners are best positioned to meet the needs of K-12 customers and help them take full advantage of the funding E-rate provides for securing their networks.

If you are an eligible K-12 organization, please contact your preferred SonicWall reseller for information on E-rate benefits and discounts, or visit the SonicWall E-rate page for information, tools and guidance.

E-rate Episode Video Series for K-12 School Districts

What is E-rate?

To help offset funding and staffing shortages, the U.S. Department of Education and the FCC launched the E-rate program, which helps make telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools, campuses, districts and libraries.

The E-rate program is operated by Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which has a core focus of providing underfunded organizations access to affordable technology and security services. This includes schools, libraries and rural healthcare organizations.

USAC provides a yearly Eligible Services List (ESL), which outlines which types of products and services can be procured via E-rate program discounts.

Applicant Steps & Resources

Prep: Before You Begin
Step 1: Competitive Bidding
Step 2: Selecting Service Providers
Step 3: Applying for Discounts
Step 4: Application Review
Step 5: Starting Services
Step 6:  Invoicing 

Resources provided by USAC

SonicWall Named 85th Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority (CNA)

SonicWall has recently been named the 85th Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority (CNA) by the MITRE Corporation, an international not-for-profit security institute.

What does this mean for SonicWall and the cyber security world at large? SonicWall has a new way to contribute to cyber security education and defense. The purpose of the CVE program is to provide a method and consortium for identifying vulnerabilities in a standardized manner.

SonicWall now has the authority to identify unique vulnerabilities within its products by issuing CVE IDs, publicly disclose vulnerabilities that have been newly identified, assign an ID, release vulnerability information without pre-publishing, and notify customers of other product vulnerabilities within the CNA’s program.

“This program takes us one step closer to reaching the transparency security administrators need in order to make swift and educated decisions when it comes to threat protection,” said SonicWall Chief Operating Officer Atul Dhablania in an official announcement. “SonicWall looks forward to working with MITRE in a collaborative effort to expand the arsenal of information needed to properly equip those who are being targeted or looking to strengthen their security posture.”

On a larger scale, the program is effective because an entire network of certified organizations works together, with the backing of numerous researchers and support personnel, to identify and stay ahead of emerging threats.

CVE Numbering Authorities (CNAs) are organizations that operate under the auspices of the CVE program to assign new CVE IDs to emerging vulnerabilities that affect devices and products within their scope.

The program is voluntary but the benefits are substantial, among them the opportunity to disclose a vulnerability with an already assigned CVE ID, the ability to control disclosure of vulnerability info without pre-publishing, and the notification of vulnerabilities for products within a CNAs scope by researchers who request a CVE ID from the CNA.

Becoming a part of the CVE program is a chance to not only connect to a vast network of organizations working to identify cyber threats, but also to contribute to the effort as a whole.

Exertis and SonicWall Pave the Way for KCSiE Guidance and Safer Internet Day

Note: This is a guest blog by Dominic Ryles, Marketing Manager at Exertis Enterprise, SonicWall’s leading distributor in the United Kingdom. Exertis is committed to providing a range of channel focused services designed to enhance your current technical knowledge and expertise in the areas of IT Security, Unified Communications, Integrated Networks and Specialist Software.


The Internet is forever changing education. Opening up a world of opportunities and transforming how students learn. New technologies inspire children and young people to be creative, communicate and learn, but the Internet has a dark side, making them vulnerable with the potential to expose themselves to danger, knowingly or unknowingly.

On the 5th September 2016, the UK Government through the Department of Education (DfE) updated the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) guidelines to include a dedicated section for online safety. This means that every school and college will need to consider and review its safeguarding policies and procedures, focusing particularly on how they protect students online. The guidance calls for effective online safeguarding mechanisms with a mandatory requirement for all schools and colleges to have an appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place, striking a balance between safeguarding and ‘overblocking,’ and being conscious not to create unreasonable restrictions on the use of technology as part of the education process.

When we think of ‘inappropriate material’ on the internet we often think of pornographic images, or even access to illegal sites to download movies and music,  but due to the widespread access to social media and other available platforms, the Internet has become a darker place since it first opened its doors back in 1969. Physical danger from divulging too much personal information, illegal activity such as identity theft and participation in hate or cult websites can lead to cyber bullying, and radicalisation in the modern day school, thus making children and young people vulnerable.

Earlier this year, Exertis, in conjunction with SonicWall, set out on a mission to raise awareness of KCSiE through a series of online and offline activities to the channel. We first put together our comprehensive ‘Appropriate Web Filtering and Monitoring for Schools and Colleges’ guide, which to date has received an overwhelming response from our partner base. The guide provides our reseller partners with all the information they need to understand the statutory changes, and how the SonicWall and Fastvue security solutions can enable educational establishments to become compliant. Towards the latter part of 2016, we registered to support Safer Internet Day (SID) 2017, a day dedicated to raising awareness of online safety for children and young people. Already in its sixth year, Safer Internet Day is run by the UK Safer Internet Centre, a combination of three leading UK organisations: SWGfL, Childnet International and Internet Watch Foundation with one mission – to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people. It will be the first year both companies have supported Safer Internet Day and we have been busy raising awareness in our local community. We approached two schools; St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy and The Co-Operative Academy and commissioned them to produce a large canvas painting with the topic ‘What does the internet mean to you?’ Students and teachers from both schools will come together to create two canvas paintings depicting the good and the bad of the internet from their perspective. We have given the schools 4-weeks to complete the art project and will be revisiting both schools on Safer Internet Day, 7th February to meet with the students and teachers behind the project, provide a talk around e-Safety, and with it, hope to raise awareness of children and young becoming safe on the Internet.


About Safer Internet Centre.

The UK Safer Internet Centre are a partnership of three leading organisations: SWGfL, Childnet International and Internet Watch Foundation with one mission – to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people. The partnership was appointed by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK in January 2011 and last year reached 2.8 million children. To find out more. Please visit – https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/

About Exertis (UK) Ltd.

Exertis is one of Europe’s largest and fastest growing technology distribution and specialist service providers. We partner with 360 global technology brands and over 28,850 resellers, e-commerce operators and retailers across Europe. Our scale and knowledge, combined with our experience across the technology sector, enables us to continue innovate and deliver market leading services for our partners. To find out more, please visit our website – http://www.exertis.co.uk/

What’s Your E-rate Plan? Three Things to Consider

A few weeks ago one of my sons got a new Chromebook at school. The old one had been around for a few years and was rather outdated in terms of the technology. The new version has a touch screen and can be used as a laptop or tablet. Not exactly new to anyone in the tech world, but for a kid it’s pretty exciting. From the school’s perspective, it was clearly time to replace aging hardware and take advantage of the latest technology innovations for learning. In other words, the school had a plan.

Schools and libraries applying for E-rate funds also need to have a plan. I’m not talking about figuring out who is going to complete and file Form 470 and when it should be submitted. This is about understanding your current network infrastructure and how you will use the funds to build a better, faster version that delivers on new initiatives over the next few years. When you’re building out your plan, here are three things you should consider.

  1. Look ahead three to five years. Considering how fast technology changes, three years will keep you on top of new developments although five years is more practical from a cost perspective. E-rate Category 2 services such as firewalls, routers, switches and access points continue to evolve rapidly with new features and faster speeds. For example, today’s firewalls can block threats such as ransomware that the previous generation can’t, and those legacy firewalls are only a few years old.
  2. Don’t let hardware slow you down. The use of online learning in the classroom continues to grow. So too does the use of bandwidth-intensive apps. When evaluating products that will go into your infrastructure, understand how much of your current capacity is being used. Then buffer that by 20% to 30% to plan for future growth. Just as important, make sure any hardware you look at can handle the increase in bandwidth. Otherwise it can become a bottleneck in the network.
  3. Let someone else manage security for you. Something that schools and libraries may not be aware of is that they can outsource security as a Managed Internal Broadband Service within Category 2. This covers services provided by a third party for the operation, management, and monitoring of eligible broadband internal connections components. The good news with this approach is that you won’t incur any upfront capital expenditures, you typically pay a low monthly subscription fee and you have a predictable annual expense model.

School IT directors are frequently tasked with implementing initiatives that help enhance learning in classrooms and across school districts. Often, however, they have to say “No” due to security risks that opening the network poses. So how can IT become a “Department of YES”? When building your plan, look for E-rate eligible products that support initiatives such as secure access to resources, mobility, moving to the cloud, compliance and others. If the products you’re considering can’t enable these securely, then you don’t want to spend your valuable E-rate dollars on them. To learn more about E-rate and how it can be used to purchase eligible security products for your network, read my earlier blog on the topic.

For some schools building and maintaining a security infrastructure isn’t something they can or want to take on. If that’s case for your school or district, SonicWall Security-as-a-Service may be the answer. We’ll connect you with a SonicWall-certified partner who’s experienced at installing, configuring and managing a network security infrastructure.

To learn more about SonicWall and E-rate, read our white paper titled, “Technical Considerations for K-12 Education Network Security.”