Lincoln Public Schools, FBI, work to prevent cybersecurity threats to schools

10/11 NOW at 5
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 6:38 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In just over a week, tens of thousands of students will start a new school year in the Lincoln Public School district. Those students and their teachers will fill out paperwork and log into computers and other technology. This makes protecting the district from cyber security threats a top priority.

“There are a number of bad actors out there on an international stage,” Kirk Langer, Chief Technology Officer for LPS said. “They’re looking for where you have a lot of people and we have a lot of students, a lot of people employed, a lot of people using technology.”

Langer said the school hasn’t been hit with any major attacks.

“We have seen, at times, because we monitor for it, we’ve seen bad actors who are trying various schemes to get into the network and gain that type of access,” Langer said.

Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel, with the FBI Omaha Field Office, said schools remain a top priority for the FBI.

“They’re a critical part of the fabric of our community,” Kowel said. “If they lose the ability to access data it can make it hard to function. Two, they also hold a huge tranche of data about some of the most vulnerable people in our population, our children. They have huge repositories of information about students including personal information, health information, developmental information.”

To prevent that information from getting out, Langer said they take a lot of precautions on the back end. This includes using firewalls to protect data centers, knowing exactly where students and staff are going on their computers, having anti-virus and anti-malware software and keeping a constant eye on what threats may be on the horizon.

But with so many students and staff having hands on technology, there’s only so much they can do. It’s why the FBI has a big emphasis on education.

“Students now are very tech savvy but may not have same maturity to identify threats the way a grown-up would,” Kowel said. “Parents, teachers and students are vulnerable to phishing attempts where they use social engineering so we really encourage education campaigns for students in schools.”

Langer said they have recently implemented mandatory cybersecurity trainings for staff and there’s curriculum surrounding cybersecurity from the time students first get computers on up.

“It’s a life long skill and pursuit we need to have,” Langer said.

Kowel said if there’s a school experiencing a cybersecurity attack, to reach out to the Omaha FBI field office for help as soon as possible.

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