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Network security requires integrated hardware and never-ending vigilance

An Indiana district turns to Alcatel-Lucent equipment and strict policies to protect its network

When it comes to managing a school district’s network security, Walter Morales’s background may be the model for an ideal resume. An electrical engineer by training, Morales cut his teeth on the importance of security in the military and at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana, where he worked on submarine combat systems.

Today, as chief technology of? cer for the Hamilton Southeastern School District in Indiana, Morales supervises a technology infrastructure that spans 20 buildings, covers 17,000 students and 2,000 employees, and includes 10,000 pieces of network-connected equipment, from computers and printers to projectors and whiteboards.

"We have lots of different technologies, but everything always integrates with the Alcatel-Lucent equipment seamlessly so we don't have any problems."

Protecting the security of his district’s network is always at the top of Morales’s mind. “We’re not going to compromise security in any way, shape or form,” he explained. “That’s always been the motto here. It’s security ?rst and then service second.”

An important ally for Morales and Hamilton Southeastern School District is Alcatel-Lucent, which has been one of the district’s key technology partners for almost 20 years. The company has played a vital role in helping the district maintain and upgrade its network. Alcatel-Lucent solutions adopted by Hamilton Southeastern include OmniAccess WLAN, a policy-based ? rewall with 802.1x authentication; Fortinet Multi Threat Appliance, for content ?ltering and spam protection, and OmniVista Quarantine Manager, for virus protection and threat isolation.

“Everything leverages on the Alcatel infrastructure,” Morales said. “We have lots of different technologies, but everything always integrates with the Alcatel-Lucent equipment seamlessly so we don’t have any problems.”

At Hamilton Southeastern, network hardware serves as the foundation for an approach to security that relies heavily on strict policies and procedures. For instance, said Morales, there are only two people in the entire district who have access to the servers—and he isn’t one of them. “I want to make sure that if something is compromised, there’s only two people that can be responsible for it,” he explained. “If something happens it’s because of something that one of those two people did. As a result, they take their responsibilities seriously and they’re very attentive to security in everything they do.”

According to Morales, another important aspect of protecting network security is user education. “The challenge is convincing people that security is important, because a lot of people see security as the ?ip side of convenience,” he said. “Security isn’t just about protecting the network against viruses and other threats; it’s about protecting privacy. We have a lot of sensitive information in our system, so if it comes to a point where we have to choose between security and convenience, security will win every time.”

Several times a year, Morales and his staff hold sessions for district employees about network security. “We educate people about the importance of password security, about opening attachments and about recognizing whether your email and other accounts have been compromised,” he said. “We also address issues like software piracy and licensing, because that’s a security issue also.”

In addition to those training sessions, Morales’s department periodically distributes reminders about the importance of maintaining personal vigilance to protect security. “We tell them to be sure to log off their computers and shut Outlook, because if somebody sends an email from your account it’s your responsibility,” he said.

For Morales and Hamilton Southeastern School District, the efforts at network security have paid off. “Knock on wood, we haven’t had a security issue here,” he said. “A lot of the surrounding districts have had security breaches, but we haven’t. The reason for that is we don’t compromise. We’re going to make sure that we have our system secure.”

For more information on what Alcatel-Lucent can do for your district, call 1-877-425-8822.