District 233 school board members will be asked to vote on a security system to protect Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s computer network and reduce the threats that are increasing.
Steve Richardson, director of information technology, said H-F has been able to stop as many as 20,000 monthly attempts to sabotage the network. He addressed the board’s finance committee about the need for a 24/7 security system from CrowdStrike to enhance the monitoring of the district’s network.
The board will consider the $76,637 purchase of the CrowdStrike cloud-based cybersecurity platform at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15.
“We’re starting to see a high attack rate against schools now. Last year there saw a 50% increase in attacks overall in the cyberattacks environment. The threats are getting higher and higher,” Richardson said.
Richardson said his team has great systems and layers of security to protect the H-F network, and staff has been working diligently to prevent problems at H-F. But, staff doesn’t work around the clock. He said a school system in Orland Park got hit on a Sunday night, but CrowdStrike saved the district from a serious disruption.
Richardson was asked for an assessment of the problem.
“I don’t want to say critical, but we’re getting near that, just because of the threat increase. In the last year, we’ve had 20,000 attacks against our network per month. Our current systems are being attacked, but it’s getting beyond what our normal systems can monitor,” he said.
“This is why I’m presenting it now, instead of the normal budget year, because I feel that increase, especially in our neighboring schools, the threats are getting higher and higher. We’re seeing targeted attacks, even our own school is experiencing. (Hackers are) using data from our own environment, school community and targeting that, so now it’s not a blanket attack but very targeted,” he told finance committee members.
Richardson said the one-year contract comes with $100,000 in insurance to cover costs should there be a disruption. He pointed out that the contract protects teachers’ laptops and students’ chromebooks, so the network can be protected even offsite of the H-F campus.
The system will enable his team to work with greater efficiency, because the CrowdStrike system will give “a lot of streamlined processes that we won’t have to monitor as consistently. They’re going to mitigate any problem on our behalf,” Richardson said.