NYS Comptroller Audit of Sackets Harbor Central School District – Information Technology (2019M-208)

The NYS Comptroller released another school district IT audit this week.  I’ve been publishing these audit reports for a number of years now because they pretty much all show significant data security failures in protecting student and/or employee personal and sensitive information or assets.

Sackets Harbor Central School District is a small school district. It has a single K-12 building and serves the Towns of Adams, Henderson and Hounsfield in Jefferson County, New York. The district has 96 employees and a student enrollment of 436. There are 723 desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, with 670 network user accounts and 193 nonstudent network user accounts.

The purpose of the audit was to determine  whether the district’s network was adequately secure to protect the student management system (SMS) against unauthorized use, access and loss.  The audit period covered July 1, 2017 – July 23, 2019.  From the state’s report, the key findings:

District officials did not:

  • Establish written procedures for password management, wireless security, remote access and managing user access rights.
  • Disable unneeded network user accounts and adequately restrict user permissions to the network and user computers based on job duties.
  • Develop a written disaster recovery plan.

Sensitive information technology (IT) control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to officials.

Key Recommendations

  • Adopt comprehensive procedures over password management, wireless security and remote access.
  • Develop procedures for adding, removing and modifying user access rights to the network and user computers.
  • Evaluate user accounts and permissions and ensure unneeded user accounts are disabled and unnecessary permissions are removed.
  • Develop a disaster recovery plan.

District officials agreed with our recommendations and indicated they had either already taken, or planned to take, corrective action.

You can access the full report here. It provides additional details on how serious some of the risks are because of unnecessary accounts still having access, etc. In a day and age when ransomware attacks on healthcare entities and educational institutions are on the rise and with more serious damage inflicted, school districts — even small ones like this district — need to up their game.

This would be a great opportunity for some infosec firms to pitch in and offer their skills and services pro bono or for very reduced cost to help their communities.

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