The Learning Curve

Glenbrook schools learn to filter out Internet dangers to protect students, teachers

NOMINATED among the 150 best high schools in America, the Glenbrook School District is an acclaimed high school district serving the Illinois communities of Northbrook and Glenview. The district's schools have distinguished themselves by achieving a national 93rd percentile for achievement in education. They have won multiple awards for excellence in teaching and education, and boast 10 National Merit finalists.

The IT department for Glenbrook schools provides support and network services to more than 5,000 student and faculty users, offering both in-school and at-home access to the Internet, network user folders and coursework. District Web sites host a multitude of student, parent and staff resources; online calendars; and online access to the school libraries.

Faced with an increasing number of Internet threats, wasted network bandwidth and loss of student productivity, Glenbrook schools sought a means to automate security.

Glenbrook schools bring state-of-the-art communication tools to students and staff to facilitate a successful learning environment. By offering students unprecedented online access to coursework outside of school, students excel both on and off campus, while maximizing class time for educational projects.

Security: A Major Challenge
Students may need access to large media-rich presentations from home for research or homework, but without network controls, the administrators were forced to manually verify what was being accessed and downloaded to their student files. This was a time-consuming and inefficient process for IT staff.

Enforcing district policy surrounding the safety of students' activities on the Web and the overall security of the network also were primary concerns. Spyware, malicious hacking tools, unlicensed music and games were being downloaded by students. This inappropriate content presented legal liability risks and took up valuable storage space and network bandwidth.

Faced with an increasing number of Internet threats, wasted network bandwidth and loss of student productivity, Glenbrook schools sought a means to automate security. Flexibility, support of district standards, ease of use and scalability were key to meeting the schools' rapidly expanding needs.

The district turned to Web filtering and desktop security solutions from SurfControl in Scotts Valley, Calif., to help regain control of its computer systems. The district deployed a multi-layered network and desktop defense capable of supporting federal and district privacy regulations, streamlining processes and protecting the network from malicious activity.

"We are just like the majority of American school districts that are suffering because of cuts to educational funding and staff reductions, which strain IT resources," said Jack Barth, network manager for Glenbrook School District. "On top of these hurdles, threats to our network are steadily rising, exposing the network and the safety of our students and staff to malicious activity. We also face the challenge of federal regulations surrounding student privacy and security, along with school board policies relating to acceptable Internet use. We are driven to find tools that allow us to be more productive with the same number or fewer staff than we have had in the past."

A Layered Approach to Security
The security solutions that Glenbrook School District deployed provide tamperproof, centrally managed desktop protection covering spyware, adware, P2P, keyloggers, IM threats and games -- all while providing advanced content-filtering technology, 24/7 risk recognition, flexible policy controls and proactive updates.

Web-based administration and reporting tools give Glenbrook schools' IT staff 360-degree visibility into Internet usage. This allows the district to quickly identify new threats or policy violations, and provides customizable, dynamic and automated response and mitigation. Reporting and monitoring tools enable Glenbrook schools to proactively analyze, evaluate and quickly respond to threats and vulnerabilities on the district network. Automated reports ensure the school is on par with the district's acceptable use policy, while keeping compliant with federal data safety regulations.

The Web filtering and desktop security solutions enable Glenbrook schools to automatically block access to inappropriate content and prevent unauthorized downloads in accordance with the district's Internet acceptable use policy. Additionally, the district has reduced student and staff exposure to Internet threats while getting more value and better performance from existing investments in desktops, network capacity and storage.

"With Web filtering and anti-spyware solutions in place, we are able to meet compliance objectives while keeping the network secured against attacks," Barth said. "We can deliver customized reports for audit that clearly show how effective we are at protecting our network. We can pinpoint what we allow into the system and, more importantly, what we keep out. We are able to support our teachers by protecting against inappropriate use of the computer during class time, keeping students focused and preventing activities that compromise the network. By providing proactive monitoring, we are keeping the network free of unwanted problems and legal liabilities."

Barth explained that through the prevention of unauthorized downloads and the elimination of adware and pop-ups, Glenbrook schools were able to reclaim their network bandwidth and storage, both of which were in short supply. By increasing the functionality, speed and security of the network through an automated solution, IT resources are able to quickly and decisively prevent suspicious or unauthorized activities.

Continuous, Proactive Threat Management
Intensive, customizable filtering meets stringent federal regulations regarding student data privacy and the prevention of inappropriate or malicious Internet activity. Dynamic content blocking provides Glenbrook schools with the ability to make immediate decisions about appropriate network activity from both on and off the school grounds. Board requirements on acceptable Internet use are enforced with customizable filtering and security analysis reports.

"Internet threats continue to get more malicious and savvy, and the resources needed to fight them are in short supply," said Jim Davey, network desktop specialist for Glenbrook School District. "We were fighting the scourge of spyware, adware and malware, but faced a mounting challenge to keep it all under control with such limited resources.

"The solutions we deployed allow us to virtually eliminate those issues, freeing up valuable bandwidth and helping to keep the network free of new attacks. We're ahead of the curve with our ability to proactively monitor network activity, dynamically block inappropriate content where necessary and exert greater control over preventing network vulnerabilities."

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 35.


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