Albany City School District, is the public school district of Albany, New York. The Kindergarten to 12th grade (K12) school district serves more than 9,000 students and 1,800 faculty members across 17 schools including 11 elementary, three middle, a prekindergarten-grade 8, an alternative education school, a comprehensive high school and a library.
Like many schools, students can access most computers outside administrative areas, such as those in classrooms, libraries and other study places. However, students and faculty members are assigned different levels of access to the network so it is important to ensure that all access is carefully managed and monitored.
Stronger security and access controls for student and staff network access
All schools in the district, as well as the library, have their own computer lab. Each classroom has a computer for registration purposes but there are also computers available in classrooms for breakout sessions. In total, there are almost 6,000 computers in the school district. However, only a maximum of 2,500 computers are in use at any given time, and this brings about two main concerns. The first being users logged onto more than one machine concurrently and the second, and more serious concern, is if a student uses a computer that a faculty member did not log off from.
For example, there was an incident where a teacher left one of the computer labs without logging off, leaving access open for a student to send a message to the printer in the principal’s office – in this case it was a bomb threat. Due to the seriousness of the situation, the police got involved and were able to trace it back to the computer in the lab as well as the teacher who was logged in. Naturally, this was a situation the school district wanted to avoid happening again.
Albany City School District’s IT team needed a solution that would help them limit student and staff logins, particularly as allowing concurrent logins reduced the chance of finding out if someone did something inappropriate.
The school district used Windows Active Directory which offered some login controls and this worked well for several years. Unfortunately, the level of login control offered in native Windows Active Directory became insufficient, and after a while failed to meet the school district’s network access security needs.
Simple and non-disruptive solution leverages and extends existing Active Directory investment
In search for a solution Don Manning, server administrator at the school district, ran a Google search and discovered IS Decisions’ network access and login auditing software UserLock. As part of the screening process Don spoke to other school districts using UserLock to gather feedback. It was important to know that UserLock was being used in other school districts and this influenced the decision on whether they would move forward with the implementation.
The IT team signed on for the trial for 90 days, testing it within the tech department before rolling it out to the whole network. Once the decision was made to purchase UserLock, the process of setting it up was very easy and only took four hours, which was a lot less compared to some of the other systems the school district has such as the email, student management and database system. UserLock was easy to integrate with the existing system because it works with Active Directory but is non-invasive and does not change the Active Directory structure or schema.
Reduced risk of security issues
Following UserLock’s deployment, if students shared their details with all their friends, the system just would not work for them. Restricting concurrent logins would help deter students from sharing logins and passwords because that will restrict their own access to the network.
Meanwhile staff logins were also more secure, with automatic logoff procedures and monitoring made possible for administrators to view access in real-time as well as audit and report.
Commenting on UserLock, server administrator, Don Manning, said: “In this digital age, computer access is essential for students and teachers alike, but this access needs to be managed properly as it can lead to significant misuse. UserLock is the ideal solution that helps us meet our network access objectives effectively.”
Albany City School has been using UserLock since middle of 2014 and is currently on version 8.5.