Be Involved and Protect Your K-12 School

By Mitch Dickey, Blog Contributor
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As mentioned in a previous post, there are many traditional “things” found in schools that are making their way onto our wireless networks. Laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices are part of the crowd now with building automation, energy management and life safety devices (to name a few) that need network connectivity. The question is, can we really trust these devices which are engineered by very smart people who don’t typically have any networking background?

Example 1
A network engineer is installing network equipment in a new school. The project manager reaches out and says the boiler contractor is having issues getting the boiler connected to the network so that it can be controlled and monitored. The network engineer knows that equipment in the boiler room is not traditionally connected to the network, so it is unlikely that there is network availability, wired or wireless, in that area. Upon arrival to check on the situation, the engineer finds that the state-of-the-art commercial boiler system has a USB wireless network adapter for connectivity. The problem isn’t that the USB wireless network adapter is 802.11g; it is that the adapter is conveniently concealed behind a large metal panel on the side of the boiler.

 Example 2
Again, a network engineer is installing network equipment in a new school. While installing wireless network components, the engineer looks at an analyzer to see how clean the spectrum is. The engineer notices that there are several wireless networks available around the building that are not controlled by the network infrastructure group. Upon further inspection, the engineer realizes that consumer-grade routers are being used for lighting controls and have minimal security features enabled or none at all.

Build a Fortress
Taking advantage of the latest security features within Wi-Fi 6 can help alleviate potential headaches caused by less than ideal devices being connected to your network. Recommending equipment that supports new security features such as WPA3 and Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE) can help stonewall potential holes in your wireless network. These new features combined with existing network security best practices will ensure the safety and resiliency of your network.

Lend a Helping Hand
If you can be involved in the planning of projects within your K-12, you can help ward off any potential undesirable equipment making its way onto the network. The people involved in construction are very good at what they do. You are good at what you do. Your added assistance will go a long way in helping them pick equipment that will be more reliable for them, and one less issue for you.

The network is relied on for everything in a school nowadays. Get a good grasp on the latest features in Wi-Fi 6 as well as the latest best practices in network security. Get in touch with people from other groups and offer your assistance in the planning process. Help conceive a plan that is thorough and well thought out. Combining your knowledge with their knowledge will make for a project that is successful for years to come.

Go Deeper
There is LOTS of great content on WPA3 and OWE. Here are a handful of related links:

WPA3 and Enhanced Open: Next Generation Wi-Fi Security

Securing Open Wi-Fi with OWE

Aruba WPA3: The New Standard for Wi-Fi Security

Aruba Enhanced Open Demo

What Do We Want? Wi-Fi Protected Access! When Do We Want WPA3? Now!

Aruba and the Need for WPA3 with OWE

The State of Guest Wi-Fi Security

Read My Other Blogs

Wi-Fi 6: Should You Believe the Hype?

Transforming the Wireless Classroom

Is Early Wi-Fi 6 Buy-In Worth It in The Budget-Conscience Public Sector?