Most Iowa Schools Don’t Use State Agency Cybersecurity Tools

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Nine K-12 entities, according to the Office of the Director of Information, are using the cybersecurity services of state agencies.

    The Office of the Chief Information Officer, also known as the OCIO, is a public agency with a mission to provide IT services to governments and municipalities through partnerships and service delivery. The majority of counties and state agencies use the agency’s core services for cybersecurity, according to a presentation to lawmakers.

    Gloria Van Rees, a spokeswoman for the department, said the services provided and the specific school districts that use those services in the email are confidential under state law.

    Bill Horning, Johnson County IT Manager, said his county uses services from OCIO because they are free. He said they are funded through a grant from the federal government and the county buys the systems needed to protect its network from the bad guys.

    “It just saves the county from putting dollars out,” says Horning. “Some of these can cost you $100 per customer. In our situation, we have 500 clients on a network. That is a significant cost to us.”

    These services, he said, allow smaller counties, which often have smaller budgets, and smaller IT departments to have a high degree of protection against potential bad actors.

    These types of public-backed services allow entities to add layers of network protection, said Doug Jacobson, who studies cybersecurity as a professor at Iowa State University. These services also allow similar organizations to monitor and communicate about common threats, he said.

    “When they see an attack here, they can help inform everyone else to protect against that attack,” says Jacobson.

    TV9 asked the Iowa Department of Education how to let school districts know about the services provided by OCIO. A spokesperson for the department referred us to an earlier statement, which stated that the department does not have the authority to oversee the local school district’s technology infrastructure and decisions made locally.

    The OCIO office did not contact us again about how those services for specific school districts were funded. However, the documents show that OCIO is funded through fees charged to IT service providers and the federal government requires it to break even.

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