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Public Schools Improve Physical Security, But Cybersecurity Declines

CDW-Government's annual School Safety Index found that public schools have improved physical safety, but cybersafety scores dropped by 25% since last year.

U.S. school districts' cybersecurity efforts are hampered by tight budgets and staff constraints, according to a report from CDW-Government.

The firm released its 2008 School Safety Index on Monday. The annual report found that American public school districts have improved their physical safety, but cybersafety scores dropped by 25% since last year.

The national cybersafety average, which ranges from zero to 100, stood at 38.6 this year.

Fifty-seven percent of districts use network access control (NAC) to view and control who and what is on the network. Rural districts adopted NAC at a rate of 60%, while suburban districts adopted at a rate of 54%, according to the report. Urban districts had a 45% adoption rate, CDW-G found.

Eighty-nine percent of districts authenticate users accessing their networks, but 16% use general log-on codes instead of individual names or passwords.

Cybersecurity breaches rose in rural and suburban districts, with 14% of districts reporting at least one IT security breach in the last year. That's up from 9% reported in the 2007 index. Eighteen percent of districts with enrollments between 1,000 and 4,999 reported breaches this year, up from 8% last year.

Almost half of districts use mass notification systems (45%), and 70% of those use automated phone messages. Most send messages to faculty and staff, but not to first responders. Sixty-one percent use e-mail alerts, but just 32% use text messages.

Seventy-nine percent of the districts use security cameras, and 2% said cameras have improved safety. Again, few give local police access to live surveillance information, or digital footage, in emergencies.

Many schools have begun using sex offender databases and security teams, according to the report.

The report said that physical safety improved by 39%.

The findings are based on an April survey of IT directors from 403 districts.

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