Houston County School Board hears proposal for new cyber security after malware attack

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Sep. 9, 2019 at 11:38 PM CDT
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The Houston County School District may be making some changes to cyber security.

This comes in light of a malware attack in July that the system is still recovering from.

According to the superintendent, the technology department has gotten to all the schools except Ashford Elementary and Webb Elementary.

The technology director is hoping to have working computers in every classroom in the district by the end of next week.

This has been quite an undertaking for the district, and now that things are almost back in order, the board is looking at ways to prevent it from happening again.

"You asked me to do what we could to make sure we didn't have another incident like we did before,” said Houston County Schools Technology Coordinator Bob Blalock at a school board meeting Monday night.

Blalock spent the last chunk of summer and first part of the school year bouncing from school to school bringing them back online.

He'll be wrapping up soon, so he thought it was time to start considering a course of action to prevent future malware attacks.

He brought CEO of ControlAltProtect Brent Panell to address the school board at a Monday night meeting.

"Schools are a major target. We're losing a cyber war, and unfortunately, Southern schools are targets,” said Panell.” They know our infrastructure isn't up to speed.”

Panell proposes a two phase approach to beefing up the school system's security - response to the current breach and building a program to "plug the holes".

Security isn't cheap however - the service would cost the school system just under $13,000 a month.

"98% start with the persistence of email, so that's the first point of attack,” said Panell. “That's where we launch a lot of our defenses."

Panell says his company would receive alerts immediately after a breach, before the malware has a chance to deploy.

Also, Panell believes the increased protection would serve as a deterrent to any experienced hackers as soon as they see it.

"We can look at shifting some funds around and maybe covering this,” said Houston County Schools Superintendent David Sewell. “It sounds expensive when you look at $12,000 a month; however, it's not as expensive as what we've been going through for the last two months."

The board merely heard ControlAltProtect's proposal at the meeting; they didn't take any action on it just yet.

The board did decide to allocate an additional five people from personnel resources to help with hack recovery for the next two to three weeks.