Talking Boundless Cybersecurity at the Schoolscape IT 2022 Conference

It was my privilege to address esteemed members and stakeholders in the education sector on behalf of main sponsor SonicWall at the recent Schoolscape IT 2022 conference.

An event highlighting how technology can integrate into the classroom of the future, Schoolscape IT 2022 took place in Cape Town and Johannesburg. With more than 120 schools and 250 attendees, it was an opportune moment to talk about cybersecurity and its role in building safer educational institutions for students and teachers alike.

Over the last few years, it has become apparent that countries in the Middle East and Africa are more susceptible to ransomware and network attacks. And that’s no less true for their schools and universities.

In a post-pandemic world that is increasingly online, risk has escalated along with the explosion of exposure points and the growth of remote/mobile workers. Securing this cybersecurity reality can be cost-prohibitive, and the acute shortage of trained personnel doesn’t help any. With resources so constrained, it can be hard to keep up with the challenges of today.

How Boundless Cybersecurity Protects Networks at a Lower TCO

The mid-year update to the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report noted an 11% increase in global malware, a 77% spike in IoT malware and a 132% rise in encrypted threats over the course of 2021. As attacks become more plentiful, sophisticated and complex, so should solutions. Instead of relying on reactive solutions, SonicWall’s boundless cybersecurity is the need of the hour.

Boundless Cybersecurity provides many features that ensure educational institutions are providing safe education, including:

  • Data-centric security posture
  • Always on, always learning software
  • Secure remote and mobile workforce
  • Aware of current and emerging attack vectors and threat sophistication
  • Protecting against the most evasive threats

How SonicWall Facilitates Secure Learning

Secure learning is essential for the safety of schools and students, whether they are in class or studying remotely. SonicWall offers real-time breach prevention and secure access to resources from anywhere, from any device, at any time, using solutions that deliver protection in the network, in the cloud and at the endpoint.

SonicWall's exclusive threat data shows nearly across-the-board increases in threat volume

Later in the event, Ziyad Ashour offered valuable insight into edtech that keeps learners safe. Mr. Ashour, who is the head of ICT for Al Dhafra Private Schools, Abu Dhabi, UAE, talked about how his schools suffered during the pandemic because they were unable to deal with the sudden increase in online traffic and the resulting security threats. He explained how SonicWall was able to provide cybersecurity that safeguarded their school and addressed their specific needs.

SonicWall’s very own Ashley Lawrence (Regional Sales Senior Manager – Sub-Saharan Africa), also spoke at the event, offering a quick intro to the company and the many solutions we provide to our 28,000+ channel partners.

Among the several case studies presented was that of Amanzimtoti High School in South Africa  — a stellar example of how a public school can transform its basic, open network into a secure and powerful tool for both students and teachers. The school used the TZ 600 next-generation firewall, which allowed them to create two separate networks, one for students and the other for teachers.

We also presented the success stories of Johannesburg’s McAuley House School and Pridwin Preparatory School, where SonicWall solutions were deployed to prevent ransomware and help increase remote access for staff, respectively.

With the successful completion of the Schoolscape IT conference 2022, we look forward to next year, where we can continue the important conversation of safe and secure education.

California School District Amps Up Content Filtering with SonicWall’s Security-as-a-Service

We know how much value SonicWall network security brings to our customers, and we know how much value our partners add when incorporating our solutions into their solutions for our customers.

The case of Calistoga Unified Regional School District is an excellent example.

Calistoga is in California’s Napa Valley. The district has more than 850 students, divided among an elementary school, junior/senior high school and an alternative-program continuation high school for students between the ages of 16 and 18. Administration offices are in a separate building near the junior/senior high school.

The district felt that its existing content-filtering services were not providing all the functionality it needed. Calistoga couldn’t get the flexibility and granular control over content filtering it needed to define different roles and access permissions for students, faculty and staff.

Like all K-12 school districts, Calistoga’s content filtering is there to protect against inappropriate and malicious web content, as well as to control application access.

“Our No. 1 priority is making sure that the students are protected,” says Jenna Burrows, Calistoga’s Director of Business Services.

Regulatory requirements regarding content filtering are also part of the picture. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), is the most directly relevant. Content filtering is also important with regards to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects students’ personally identifiable information (PII) from unauthorized disclosure, and is a requirement for districts to be eligible for discounts through the federal E-rate program.

Faced with a clear need to upgrade their content-filtering capabilities, Calistoga turned to their local managed services provider, Napa Valley Networks (NVN). NVN has been a SonicWall partner for more than 15 years. NVN recommended SonicWall’s Content Filtering Service for Calistoga.

But NVN didn’t stop with content filtering. After an initial audit of Calistoga’s network, they uncovered an issue with the district’s gateway. NVN’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Kyle Lumley, says the existing gateway “didn’t give them the control or feature set that they needed.”

NVN’s recommendation for Calistoga was a SonicWall SuperMassive 9800 next-generation firewall with High Availability capability.

All well and good so far. More granular, customizable content filtering and a new gateway to provide better control for the present, as well as being better able to handle future increases in networked devices and utilization.

Then came the 400-pound gorilla. How could Calistoga afford to pay for these improved capabilities? School districts work under very tight financial constraints.

Fortunately, NVN and SonicWall had a solution.

Calistoga leveraged SonicWall’s Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS). Rather than paying a large amount upfront as a capital expenditure, Calistoga pays a much more manageable monthly fee which fits within its operating budget. Burrows says this is a much more reasonable solution for the district.

Additionally, much of the cost is eligible for discounts through the federal E-rate program.

NVN coordinated the transition to the new gateway and Content Filtering Service. All went well, even in the face of tight deadlines. Calistoga’s happy with the results.

Read the Case Study here.