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SDCOE Leading in Cybersecurity Efforts

SDCOE Leading in Cybersecurity Efforts

As cyber attacks against educational institutions have increased, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has been leading the way in cybersecurity efforts locally and across the state. 

SDCOE was the first county office of education in the state to fully implement multi-factor authentication — and the transition occurred during the height of the pandemic. SDCOE is also the creator of a widely used platform that simulates phishing attacks as an ongoing training for school employees.

As with everything at SDCOE, it’s not just about our organization, but scaling what works best to support others.

“Having security measures in place helps protect student and employee data, which is important in maintaining the community’s trust,” said Terry Loftus, SDCOE assistant superintendent and chief information officer. “The Integrated Technology Services (ITS) team continues working behind the scenes every day to secure and defend our data systems and help other county offices and districts do the same.”

And that work is becoming increasingly important with phishing attacks targeting local schools and districts increasing and becoming more sophisticated.

The Red Herring phishing awareness program, created by SDCOE to address a need for low-cost, effective cybersecurity training, has grown to about 200,000 users in more than 100 local educational agencies across California. This system enables schools, districts, and county offices of education to simulate phishing attacks and help train staff members to better identify suspicious emails and other security threats. You’ve no doubt seen a few of these emails yourself with urgent requests to click links, misspelled words, and strange email addresses. The team is even planning a Red Herring conference for next month.

SDCOE’s multi-factor authentication implementation has been hailed across the state as a model for other educational agencies. The ITS team continues to provide workshops and trainings, and on-board new local educational agencies onto cybersecurity services that make a positive impact on students and families. 

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