State audits of school district IT reveal why k-12 districts are sitting ducks for threat actors

On July 15, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released the following school district audits. Clicking on the links will take you to the fuller reports, but even then, some things were so bad, it seems, that findings were told to the districts, but not put in writing in public reports that threat actors might see.

Watervliet City School District – Information Technology (Albany County)

The board and district officials did not ensure the information technology (IT) assets and data were safeguarded. Officials did not establish written procedures for managing, limiting and monitoring user accounts. Auditors determined officials also did not disable 72 unneeded network accounts in a timely manner. Officials also did not monitor compliance with the acceptable computer use policy. As a result, 12 of 13 computers auditors tested accessed nonbusiness websites prohibited by the policy. Sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to officials.

Westhill Central School District – Information Technology (Onondaga County)

District officials did not implement adequate information technology (IT) controls over the district office’s network to safeguard personal, private and sensitive information. District officials also did not monitor employee internet use. Auditors found eight of 10 employees’ computers they reviewed were used for personal internet activity. District officials did not properly manage network user accounts. Auditors examined all 31 enabled network user accounts on the district office domain controller. Six unneeded network user accounts, seven shared user accounts and three user accounts were found with unneeded administrative permissions. In addition, district officials did not provide formalized IT security awareness training to staff. Sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to district officials.

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