Public Schools and IT Security

This is quite astonishing: I am sitting in a public elementary school in Massachusetts, happily booting my laptop to finish reading some PDF document. After logging in I suddenly notice that my wireless adapter picks up a network: ‘linksys’. Amazed that some neighboring home reached into the school building with their WiFi access point, I only quickly check the nameserver to see which ISP that access point is connected to: (name of town) What??? I am in the school network? No WAP/WEP, firewalls, proxy or anything.

Given the fact that the calendar shows the year 2007, I am now really astonished and shocked, that the IT environment of an entire school system is exposed to the world through an unprotected WiFi AP.

The security, privacy, and potential ID theft implications are huge: I assume (though I cannot speak for certain, since I did not even try to touch any of the systems) that some of the systems in this infrastructure contain personally identifyable information about the school staff, teacher and even students. Even a well patched and maintained system that is monitored by advanced intrusion detection software can not necessarily replace a firewall that blocks in-coming traffic. I just hope that – going forward – things like this will never happen again.

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