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HISD Initiates Aggressive Computer Network Security Plan Parents and employees updated on October network breach December 2, 2010 – Houston Independent School District Superintendent of Schools Terry Grier on Thursday unveiled a $10 million to $15 million plan to significantly upgrade HISD’s computer network security system. The aging system, combined with longstanding policies that allowed campuses to purchase computer hardware and install software with little oversight, have left HISD’s network particularly vulnerable to hackers, Dr. Grier informed school board members Thursday. “Fixing this will be a financially costly endeavor, but HISD parents, taxpayers, and employees must be able to trust that we take protecting their private information seriously,” Dr. Grier said. The network security plan includes: • An immediate outside third-party review and action plan for the district’s entire security environment • Immediately strengthening current firewall security • Upgrading password protocols and implementing security awareness training for all employees • Tasking the Technology Department with overseeing all PC usage, managing remote PC access to the network, and removing some PCs from the network • Adding new positions in the Network Security Division • Limiting wireless access solely to HISD computers until the network is fully upgraded The announcement comes on the same day that HISD is informing parents and employees that a criminal investigation has revealed that a hacker viewed the personal records of one student and had access to private data maintained on all students, employees and some vendors dating back 10 years. The investigation, which is ongoing, has uncovered no evidence that the private data, other than that belonging to the one student, was actually viewed by any unauthorized individuals. But because of that threat, HISD is required by Texas law to notify all potentially affected individuals of the security breach. The first sign of a possible security breach was observed by HISD technology workers on October 24, 2010, and a criminal investigation, headed by HISD Police with help from the FBI, the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, and IBM was launched, and local media was notified. Investigators determined shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday that a security breach had in fact occurred. HISD employees received e-mails and parents are receiving letters today updating them on the situation and offering information to guard against identity theft. Additional information is posted on the HISD website. Parents and employees with additional questions can e-mail HISD@houstonisd.org. Beginning Friday, a telephone hotline will be open to receive questions, though it will have a limited capacity to handle calls. That number is 713-556-8900. The Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States with 298 schools and more than 200,000 students. The 301-square-mile district is one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with nearly 30,000 employees. For more information, visit the HISD Web site at www.houstonisd.org.
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