U.S. education authority set to deliver business-class identity security
Chico Unified School District protects 21 schools, 12,000 students and over 23,000 devices with the CyberArk Identity Security Platform
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Chico Unified School District has begun implementing multiple capabilities of the CyberArk Identity Security Platform to transform privileged access management, workforce access and ensure vendor access is more secure. Chico Unified School District is setting multiple security layers to protect the access to student data, staff and systems.
Chico Unified School District is a highly rated, public school district in Sacramento Valley, California. It encompasses 21schools with over 12,000 students and is comprised of many unique programs such as: preschool, transitional kindergarten (TK), continuation school, independent study program, Career and Technical Education programs (CTE), special services and an online academy.
Employees: 1,800 & 12,000 students
Chico Unified School District (CUSD) is a high-achieving public-school authority that oversees 21schools and 12,000 students in Sacramento Valley, California. The district has a small IT team that must manage and protect the identities of students, staff, and vendors, across a vast and distributed computing environment comprising of multiple applications and software packages, 100 servers, 3,500 Windows devices and over 20,000 Chromebooks. With the ever-increasing threat of cyber-attacks, schools and education facilities have come to be viewed as soft targets with limited IT budgets and staff but with a lot of valuable assets and data.
“In the last three or four years, we have made a big investment to deeply understand how to best protect our environment,” said John Vincent, Director of Technology, Chico Unified School District. “We knew the writing was on the wall for school districts because they are a huge target for ransomware. The CUSD has lots of valuable student data. Someone could grab that information and post it on the dark web, so we must be able to keep our students and their information safe.”
The district started to improve identity security by strengthening its passwords, applying adaptive multifactor authentication (MFA) and managing privileged access, vaulting passwords and building a multi-layered approach to security. “Identity Security has become crucial within cybersecurity as the majority of cyberattacks involve compromising identities and misusing privileged access,” acknowledged Vincent. ”For CUSD, identity security is critical and will be more so as technologies like AI are used to scour the web for information to generate false identities.”
One of the big catalysts to improving security was the skyrocketing cost of cybersecurity insurance. Privileged Access Management is crucial in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Insurance providers are increasingly requiring PAM controls to provide coverage, lower insurance costs, or both. Using guidance from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology agency (NIST), the district started to look for a solution.
“We considered several different vendors, but when we looked at the different companies that use CyberArk, the reviews, the product features and compared them with other products, CyberArk stood out in the crowd as the premier product,” recalled Vincent. “The other reason for choosing CyberArk was that it offered great value for the money.”
CUSD has begun deploying multiple capabilities of the CyberArk Identity Security Platform comprising CyberArk Privilege Cloud, CyberArk Vendor Privileged Access Manager and CyberArk Workforce Identity. With these solutions in place, CUSD can centrally manage and secure all workforce, IT and vendor access using intelligent privileged controls.
CyberArk provides a single console for CUSD. This way, all users protected by CyberArk have one place to log into systems and applications instead of having to access each device or application separately and manually.
Passwords are set, issued and removed by CyberArk so users never need to know the password, allowing CUSD to provide easy and quick access to targeted systems.
“The CyberArk Identity Platform is a great tool for providing simple and secure access to our staff. By removing the burden of creating and remembering passwords and offering seamless, one-click access, we are improving productivity and enhancing our security posture.”
– John Vincent, Director of Technology, Chico Unified School District
Vincent praised the level of support CUSD receives from CyberArk, especially the product knowledge and expertise used to help the district begin its implementation of CyberArk.
“The CUSD has a small IT crew, and we needed to find efficient ways to manage privileged access across all our different platforms,” elaborated Vincent. “CyberArk Privilege Cloud gives us a simple, centralized and automated way to manage privileged access across our critical infrastructure.”
Because of the number and variety of equipment and applications in education, CUSD has several external vendors that need to remotely access applications for maintenance and upgrades. CUSD used to protect access using a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) desktop or VPN (virtual private network).
“Now we are starting to use CyberArk Vendor Privileged Access Manager to secure and streamline vendor access. It is a beautiful thing, because now vendors enjoy a password-less and VPN-less experience to access their target systems, they authenticate in a seamless way and only have access to their product. We can also control and limit their access to certain hours, and we can rotate passwords as soon as they log off.”
– John Vincent, Director of Technology, Chico Unified School District
Insurance companies bring in a different viewpoint about security measures. The company that insures CUSD recently brought in a partner to scan the district’s network to assess its security posture. Vincent believes this will only get tougher with more in-depth auditing as the threat of attacks continues to increase. “CyberArk gives CUSD the tools to gather the information and evidence it needs to demonstrate to third parties, such as cybersecurity insurance providers, that it manages privileged access credentials sufficiently and safely,” continued Vincent.
A few years ago, CUSD started on a journey to improve its identity security. It started with a basic password policy of six or seven characters and a password manager. Then the CUSD introduced CyberArk that not only put in a password policy, but it also automated access and password management and made the CUSD more secure. “A solution like the CyberArk Identity Security Platform is something that can really help us protect our students and staff, so we are not the type of organization that ends up having to explain how credentials were compromised and privileges misused,” explained Vincent. “So, my advice is to make sure you put in place a solution like CyberArk’s to protect your users’ credentials and manage privileged access.”
Vincent had started out with just a couple of analysts to tackle the growing threat of cyber-attacks. “Today, seeing passwords that anyone could pull out and use anywhere now protected in a vault is a huge achievement for the CUSD,” commented Vincent. “With CyberArk, our privileged accounts and credentials are locked away and our students, staff and schools are being protected like never before.”
- Gives organizations with limited resources business-class protection
- Significantly improves security posture
- Helps protect students, staff and schools
- Automates many manual processes
- Provides a simple and single way to manage privileged access
- Controls vendor access more securely and efficiently
- Avoids skyrocketing cost of cybersecurity insurance
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