Oct 18 2022

How CASBs Are Helping K–12 Schools Bolster Cybersecurity

Cloud access security brokers protect student data in cloud applications, which nearly all districts are using in today’s education environment.

At Hillsboro-Deering School District in New Hampshire, CISO Neal Richardson had a problem familiar to many K–12 IT leaders.

“We had a lack of visibility in the built-in Microsoft and Google tools,” he says. “The data is there — logon locations, where the connections to my cloud solutions are coming from, emails in and out — but it’s buried.”

To get the upper hand, Richardson implemented a cloud access security broker solution from ManagedMethods. For many K–12 IT teams, CASBs offer a way to get ahead of cyberthreats.

What Is a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), and How Does It Work?

While nearly all districts are using cloud applications now, they may not realize that network-based security tools such as firewalls and content filters won’t protect the data in these apps. CASBs give them that higher level of control.

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“A CASB gives visibility into what apps users are using, and it supports compliance —with IT policy and with any of the standards for data security and threat protection,” says Sateesh Narahari, chief product officer at ManagedMethods.

With these visibility and compliance features, CASBs allow organizations to better manage their cybersecurity posture. “The CASB solution looks at user activity: where they’re going, all the files they’re sending,” Narahari says. “Then, it applies the IT policy to prevent threats, prevent data loss and conform to compliance.”

Lately, cloud-native CASB applications have eclipsed on-premises solutions. This minimizes operational issues and is easier for IT admins to configure.

Why Do K–12 Schools Need CASBs for Cloud Applications?

K–12 technology leaders need CASB solutions because they have to be proactive in their cybersecurity. “There are federal and state regulations that require K–12 organizations to protect student data,” Narahari says. “They have to protect employee data as well, and it’s not as simple as publishing an IT policy document and asking everybody to follow it.”

At West Rusk County Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, for example, Technology Director Cody Walker says, “We didn’t know about phishing threats until the end user had notified us.”

Now, the district relies on a CASB solution. “We have a lot more insight into what is happening with our students and our faculty, what files are being created and what emails are going out, as well as what types of threats are coming in,” he says.

How Do CASB Solutions Keep K–12 Staff, Educators and Students Secure?

The ManagedMethods CASB Walker implemented has given him greater insight and control. For example, the system can alert him to students talking about self-harm in their communications. It also helps him to secure an increasingly complex IT landscape.

“Our students may have over 500 apps attached to their accounts. From a single pane of glass, we can manage that. We can see which ones are risky,” he says. “From there, we can either sanction and approve those apps, or we can block them.”

“A CASB solution could help improve the cybersecurity posture for the whole school district, for all the stakeholders — students, staff, teachers and administrators,” Narahari adds.

Richardson says the CASB’s automatic alerting has been a game changer. And geofencing — the ability to limit access from suspicious locations — “has easily caught 15 or 20 individual instances,” he says. “Now, we have the ability to see it, block it and force a password reset. All of that has been automated, and I do sleep better at night because of that.”

Overall, the CASB solution “absolutely has saved me time, easily four or five hours a week of not having to manually slog through logs. Rather than working until 7 or 8 or 9 at night, I can almost leave at a normal hour,” he says.

UP NEXT: Don't fall victim to these common incident response mistakes.

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