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HCCSC addresses cyber security

by James Ehle - jehle@chronicle-tribune.com

HCCSC is stepping up their cyber security after one email account was compromised, sending “hundreds of thousands of emails” from the school’s server.

The school system was selected to participate in Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) certification, which serves as a mark of distinction for school systems, signalling they have taken specific, measurable steps to insure the privacy of student data, according to TLE.

Out of 28 participating school systems, Zionsville is the only Indiana TLE certified district, and it will help facilitate the process.

The timing of the selection comes just weeks after HCCSC board developed a goal to “develop a proactive plan that ensures safety remains a primary consideration throughout the corporation.”

The TLE certification plan will involve cooperation from HCCSC school staff, students, and parents.

“Everyone is going to have to be on board for us to achieve this,” said Tom Ashley, Director of Technology at HCCSC. “We use data in almost everything we do in every level of the school corporation.”

Actionable steps included designating a privacy official to steward the entire project, create a representative team that represents different areas of the school district, provide ongoing training for all levels of staff including business purchasing, human resources and students, involving parents by providing them ways to protect their children at home, among others.

Cyber security is the priority for IT leaders today, according to a CoSN 2019 IT Leadership survey. School districts are frequently targeted for cyber attacks according to Ashley. Compared to banks, schools have less security staff, and information is worth money on the dark web.

“A W-2 could be worth about $52 a piece out there on the dark web,” said Ashley. “A piece of student data, depending on what it is, could be worth about $35 a piece.”

The dangers of a major data breach include cyber threats, ransomware, identity theft, and social engineering attacks are amongst concerns the TLE certification hopes to educate HCCSC about.

“When we think of security, it isn’t just physical safety that should come to mind,” Ashley said.

In another discussion involving students physical safety, HCCSC School Resource Officer Terry Stoffel and Nurse Meg Friesen talked with board members about the prospect of bringing Narcan, a product that reduces and reverses opiate effects, into schools.

In 2019 alone, five people have died from opioid overdoses in Huntington County so far, which puts the county “on track for 10 deaths” according to Stoffel.

“It’s not so much that I’m worried about the kids coming to school and overdosing,” said Stoffel.

The concern stems from students who may live in households where heroin is present. Fentanyl, an opioid added to heroin to make the drug more powerful, can cause a person to overdose just by touching it.

“A kid could just inadvertently take a bookbag to school and set it down and a teacher gets ahold of it and a teacher could go down,” Stoffel said describing a possible inadvertent overdose scenario.

Narcan is an atomizer which is administered through each nostril. According to Friesen, the clinics already use atomizers to administer seizure medication.

“This isn’t something new that the clinic assistants are going to see for the first time,” Friesen said.

A senate bill was passed in July of 2017 which allowed schools the option to have an EpiPen, albuterol, and Narcan on-site. In the case of an overdose, nurses would contact EMT for approval before administering the medication.

“As a school corporation, I feel like it’s our responsibility if we are given the ability to carry this on-site,” Friesen said. “Why wouldn’t we if it has the potential to save somebody’s life?”

Friesen and Stoffel hope the school board will be proactive to include Narcan in clinics as a precaution, instead of being reactive in waiting until an instance occurs to include the medication. The school board will make the decision of whether or not to include Narcan in clinics in a future meeting.