Dysart district updates network safety, expands partnerships

Dysart Unified School District building [Courtesy of DUSD]

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

The Dysart Unified School District Chief Information Office Diana Hawari provided an update of district strategic plan goals at the panel’s May 23 meeting at the Nathaniel Dysart Education Center 15802 N. Parkview Place.

One of several updates slated annually, Mr. Hawari’s presentation an overview of the district’s cybersecurity efforts, which falls under DUSD’s Strategic Plan Goal C.

“Strategic goal plan C deals with implementing a system to ensure network safety for all stakeholders,” Dysart Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick said.

Ms. Hawari said according to research in 2016, in the year 2020 organizations are expected to spend $1.6 billion dollars on cybersecurity, which includes firewall and direct-messaging web filters among other methods.

“We are contracted with a third-party company to assess our network security and critical needs, as well as remediations and they give us a score,” Ms. Hawari explained. “We are higher-than-average and not at the top, but it’s hard to get to the tippy-top. We have monthly scans and our scores have increased 27 points since November. The majority will happen over the summer and we’ve had nothing flagged as critical.”

Ms. Hawari said the biggest challenge is human error, explaining social engineering has a way to infiltrate networks and email scams.

“Part of our training does include recognizing these types of attempts and password protection,” she explained. “We try to follow the best practices and monitor our network and reassess our disaster discovery plan to make changes as needed.”

Ms. Hawari said it’s critical to take inventory as devices come in and leave and training to make sure people know how to recognize threats and what to do when they arrive in emails and other electronic correspondence.

“My challenge as director is I would not give access to anything, but because of the way the world is we have to leave it open so people can access resources and yet we have to keep them secure,” Ms. Hawari said. “Everyone should be responsible for their own security.”

Strategic goal D addresses expanded partnerships. Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Jim Dean said the district is already working to address those expansions, including actively pursuing new and additional resources to assist the schools.

“Ottawa has reached out to us and we are looking at more ways to partner in the education program,” Mr. Dean said. “We are excited to expand those opportunities. We want to ensure our partners have good lines of communication and a streamline for it. Throughout next year we will evaluate the strategies and adjust them as needed.”

For information, visit www.dysart.org.

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