Cornerstone receives technology report

There is no completion date when it comes to the subject of supplying hardware, software and security systems for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division.

Brian Belinsky, manager of information systems for the division, provided school board members with a detailed summary of the various information technology components found within Cornerstone’s borders. He said the five-year upgrading plan is coming to a conclusion.

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There are 10 schools scheduled for technology upgrades within this school year which will conclude the cycle.

Those schools include Redvers, Rocanville and Wapella in the eastern region; Alameda, Carievale and Oxbow in the south while Gladmar, Lyndale (Oungre), Pangman and Yellow Grass are scheduled for upgrades on the western side of the school division.

The upgrades include mobile technology for staff and students, Pod growth, extended device life cycles and infrastructure support.

Belinsky also spoke of the implementation of security measures to ensure the safety of the information being transmitted and transferred throughout the 38-school system and the central office located in Weyburn.

Belinsky spent about an hour with the board members in their Weyburn head office conference room on Dec. 19 as part of their monthly general business session.

“We have 5,350 computers in the school division,” he said, “consisting of 1,477 desktop and 3,098 laptops with 775 legacy computers, almost all of them being laptops.” They also have 1,904 iPads and there are 37 school servers, 175 switches and 678 access points.

Many of the computers that are recycled out of the school system, find new homes. He said 25 laptops were recently donated to a group home in Calgary, as one example.

The computer hardware is on a rotating five-year refreshment cycle. Belinsky said there is ongoing discussion within individual schools regarding their needs and desires regarding such things as desktops, laptops, iPads et al and as a result, there are increasingly more efficient ideas and plans coming forward for management and maintenance of these education tools.

There is a fluid replacement program in place for legacy telephone and public address (PA) services in the schools and upgrades to school data wiring, switches and routers followed by educational sessions to ensure staff members are familiar with new systems and protocols. There is also development of contingency plans in case of system failures, such as the recent extended power outages that affected communications systems throughout southern Saskatchewan.

Four systems will be upgraded by the end of 2019, Belinsky said, including schools in Manor, Lampman, Midale and Maryfield while Prairie Horizon School in Oxbow will receive a wireless access point upgrade.

When it came to the area of security, Belinsky again emphasized the need to maintain a vigilant process of upgrading and monitoring since the cyber security systems are consistently being challenged by outside entities. The systems’ technical analysts have upgraded 4,200 devices to Windows 10 over the past couple of years, he told the board and they will have all computers upgraded by the end of 2018. Two new network security systems have been added to assist in the process of securing the Cornerstone networks.

Belinsky addressed the various areas of security concern, pointing out there were nine types of suspicious activities that had to be monitored consistently with the largest being reconnaissance using directory services queries with 477. Identity theft attempts based on abnormal behaviour online, and encryption downgrade activity were just a couple of more examples. There were also four types of security health issues with the largest area of concern being the lack of analysis of some network traffic.

Belinsky said dashboard alerts the network monitors and checks for false positives that are then tracked. Examples such as a generic user account logging in to multiple devices. He said in those instances, network monitors intervene with “appropriate action.” There are insider and outsider threat detection systems in place.

To further illustrate the need to remain vigilant on the security file, Belinsky noted there were over 14,000 incidents in one month where there had been indicators of compromise and nearly 36,000 password brute force failed log in attempts.

The school division’s security systems are continually being challenged by phishing expeditions, Window exploits, scanners and Botnet. He provided information on phishing and spam targets within the system.

Belinsky said the majority of the network hackers appear to be situated in Eastern European countries and “they keep trying to connect their systems to ours with various combinations and they’ll try over, and over, and over again and every time division I.S. has been able to mitigate.”

Those were a few good reasons why the information systems required continual updating and monitoring, he suggested.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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