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Laredo Schools IT Leaders Discuss Cyber Concerns, Funding

Two school district IT leaders are praising recent state funding for managed security services and discussing their prioritization of cybersecurity to protect users and systems.

Closeup of hands typing on a laptop with symbols hovering over the keyboard including a lock, envelope, cloud and person.
Cybersecurity supervisors in both the Laredo Independent School District and United Independent School District said making sure their networks are secured is a major priority they constantly focus on as cyber attacks can come at any time and from any source.

“Laredo Independent School District has growing concerns about the potential for cyber attacks,” LISD Executive Director for Technology Services Ambrosio Gomez III said. “With the increasing reliance on digital technology and the collection of sensitive data, schools are becoming more vulnerable to various forms of cyber threats.”

Digital technology is now front and center in schools and includes parents registering students, students doing homework, the district sharing important updates and more. These digital technologies all present a challenge when it comes to keeping them secure. For years, the issue of cybersecurity has been a major threat to everything from companies to personal computers as hackers attempt to steal information, and school districts know this is a huge priority for them.

Gomez III said the school district is prepared for such threats. However, he cautioned that he cannot stipulate what methods they have in place to fight off any hackers or ransomware attacks as it could expose potential vulnerabilities in their systems.

UISD information security supervisor Martin Martinez said several school districts throughout the country have been the targets of recent cyber attacks, which is why UISD places a priority on protecting its information systems. He said UISD has been attacked in the past, but nothing has ever happened to infringe the data of students or employees.

“The district has experienced small-scale attacks, which we were able to effectively remediate by following our standard practices,” Martinez said. “The district has made several investments over the past five years to augment and fortify our information systems. These investments provide the defense in-depth architecture needed for today’s advanced threats.”

Martinez states that a successful attack can be catastrophic because school districts hold large amounts of personal data pertaining to students and staff.

“This data may be extorted for a ransom or sold on black markets to the highest bidder,” he said. “It is our duty to protect this information as it may lead to identity theft.”

Gomez III said increasing cybersecurity funding for LISD holds significant benefits that could potentially save many hassles over time. He said it helps protect the sensitive information school districts possess for their students and employees.

“It safeguards sensitive student and staff data, prevents cyber attacks like ransomware and phishing, ensures uninterrupted operations, protects online learning environments, preserves financial resources, upholds the district’s reputation, ensures compliance with regulations, empowers staff with vital skills, prepares for future threats and builds community trust,” Gomez III said. “With technology’s growing role in education, investing in cybersecurity is essential to provide a secure, effective and reliable learning environment while mitigating potential risks.”

Gomez III and Martinez implore school districts throughout the state to allocate more funding for cybersecurity in Texas school districts as a proactive and necessary step to ensure the safety of student and staff data, maintain operational continuity and protect the district’s reputation in an increasingly digital world.

“Funding is always a challenge, and security systems can be expensive,” Martinez said. “Recent Texas legislation will allocate funding so that managed security services can be offered to school districts at no cost. This is a huge benefit to any school district in Texas and may also serve as a model for other states to follow suit.”

(c)2023 Laredo Morning Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.