More than 1300 of the 2450-plus New Zealand schools using Network for Learning’s (N4L) government-funded Managed Network internet services are now benefitting from an enterprise-grade firewall and web filtering solution designed to keep teachers and students safer when using the internet.

The nationwide rollout of the cyber security technology has now reached the halfway mark. It is the first phase of a wider upgrade to N4L’s Managed Network, and will improve a schools’ protection against online threats, such as phishing and ransomware; provide more advanced web filtering tools to keep students safer online; and will better equip schools to block the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) used by students attempting to bypass web filtering.

Research shows that New Zealand is in a unique position as one of the only countries in the world where the government is investing in a nationwide broadband programme that not only connects every school to fast, reliable and uncapped internet; but is also funding robust security for schools.

N4L chief executive Larrie Moore says the rollout is progressing on schedule and within budget, with all schools scheduled to receive the new technology by the end of June, thanks to a partnership involving global cyber security company Fortinet, Spark New Zealand, and a panel of 12 local technology companies that are visiting every school to support the transition.

Chris Jarnet, principal of Ngaruawahia High School in the Waikato, is among the 1200 schools upgraded to the new cyber security software.

“The safety and wellbeing of our students is of a huge priority for us, so having access to the tools and technology to keep our students safe online, at no extra cost to our school, is super important. The transition to N4L’s new security system was very smooth, and I am very happy with the end result,” says Jarnet.

Schools were invited to take part in a survey immediately following the upgrade to rate their experience, with 92.2% of the 511 respondents indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the transition, a figure that Mr Moore attributes to the expertise of the wider team and the company’s six-year history working with schools.

“Everyone involved in this project is inspired by its social mission: that we are playing an important role in helping all young people get a great and safe online learning experience at school, laying some of the essential groundwork so they can go on to achieve great things.”

“Schools are more vulnerable to cyber attacks if they aren’t equipped with the technology and skills to manage these risks. While technology is not a silver bullet, the expertise and technology being deployed in every school is world class, and will play a big part in detecting and preventing attacks, and mitigating the impact to schools.”

The next phase of the nationwide Managed Network upgrade programme will be providing eligible schools with access to bandwidth speeds of 1Gb by October. N4L will also be rolling out new reporting tools to help schools better understand and manage student internet use, including how much bandwidth they are using; which apps are using this bandwidth; and potential breaches of the school’s internet use policy.

Schools’ internet use and cyber security stats:

  • N4L blocked more than 1.2 million security threats across the Managed Network in 2018
  • Schools used N4L’s web filtering tools to block more than 1.1 billion websites across the Managed Network in 2018
  • More than 4 petabytes of data are consumed every month by 825,000 students and teachers using the Managed Network
  • N4L cyber security partner Fortinet highlights the global rise of new malware variants at an alarming rate, growing 43% throughout the last quarter alone.
  • 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report indicates the education sector was the most-targeted industry in Australia, accounting for 26% of all attacks.
  • New Zealand schools are provided with additional advice, guidance and education around digital citizenship and cyber security by Netsafe and CERT NZ (Computer Emergency Response Team), and the Ministry of Education.

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