Oct 31 2022

What Is SASE and How Can It Benefit K–12 Districts’ Security Posture?

A secure access service edge security model can keep schools protected from next-generation cyberthreats in a modern education environment.

“The greatest and most serious threat currently facing the K–12 sector today is cyberattacks,” says Fadi Fadhil, Palo Alto Networks’ CTO of the public sector and SLED Field Strategist. “At this point, it is obvious that a shift in cyber strategy is needed. This is where SASE, or secure access service edge, comes in.”

SASE is a security model that provides instant defense against malware and ransomware through the deployment of a cloud-based security service to a district.

With the digital and remote learning shifts of the last few years, K–12 schools more frequently send and access data in the cloud. As such, districts need security parameters that keep up with these evolving methods of storing and handling data.

Educational institutions and IT leaders have access to massive quantities of sensitive data. Research by the K–12 Cybersecurity Resource Center shows that school districts in the U.S. handle more than 50 million students’ data, all of which is susceptible to cyberattacks. Gaps in a school’s security posture put the data and privacy of users at risk.

“We are no longer defending the school’s perimeter, but rather defending the identity of our users,” Fadhil says.

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How Does SASE Work?

SASE is a network security framework that incorporates robust cloud security technologies, such as secure web gateways (SWGs), Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) and cloud access security brokers (CASBs). SASE uses those technologies to form a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), which provides maximum cloud security for all users and endpoints. It drastically reduces the risk of cyberattacks, providing protection and efficient access to critical areas of a school’s network.

SASE also recognizes devices and users based on a district’s security policy. This lets IT leaders take a proactive approach to their cybersecurity measures because they can assure secure access to staff and students at any location from any device.

SASE connects security capabilities and networking to a single service, cloud architecture. “It’s the idea of putting security at the service edge and putting the access as appropriately and efficiently as possible at the service edge,” says Peter Romness, cybersecurity principal for the U.S. public sector CTO office at Cisco.

How Does SASE Help K–12 Schools with Security?

SASE shifts the security focus from traffic flow-centric to identity-centric, providing secure data access to students, teachers and staff.

“SASE provides seamless connectivity everywhere, on the school campus and off the school campus,” says Romness.

By choosing the best path for data without compromising performance, SASE works as an upgrade to traditional VPNs. It implements security controls closer to the end user, rather than implementing secure parameters integrated across the network. It also integrates many security functions, including malware protection, DNS reputation, secure web gateway, zero network access, cloud access security broker and intrusion prevention.

KEEP READING: Learn why more K–12 school leaders are considering zero-trust policies.

SASE Benefits For K–12 Districts’ Security Posture

In addition to secure remote access, K–12 IT leaders will find other benefits when employing a SASE security model.

This model offers constant network monitoring capabilities, allowing IT teams to monitor data flow and analyze network performance in real time. K–12 schools can get a real-time visual representation of all outbound process connections on a single network interface.

With educational technologies expanding rapidly, students and educators need reliable ways to connect to the school’s network. SASE ensures everyone can connect to the network securely and reliably, and its architecture allows it to deliver data without any latency, offering a seamless experience to the end users.

Schools can also improve their return on investment with SASE security models. Whereas now, many K–12 schools use legacy security models as their network security solutions, SASE offers a single cloud-native solution. This eliminates the need for various solutions from different vendors that result in an overly complicated, inefficient and costly security model. Simplifying network complexity also leads to less workload on the IT staff.

Now more than ever, schools need modern solutions to secure their data. With the increased popularity of the cloud, remote distribution of data has skyrocketed, and so has cybercrime. SASE gives K–12 IT leaders the ability to maintain their priority of securing data and protecting users from threats.

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