Security is becoming a hot-button topic for
schools, which are seeking intrusion detection devices, locking
enclosures and intelligent video surveillance systems.
Schools are taking steps to protect their
wiring closets, or view any potential damage or vandalism in them. In
the post-Columbine High School era, they are seeking security systems
that will detect weapons a student may bring to school, and systems with
key cards that will allow students entrance to the buildings, and
IP-based cameras that will survey parking lots.
Public and higher education institutions are
no longer content with filming an act of vandalism or a crime. Many are
seeking technology that will help them move from reactive to preventive
security measures. All in all, schools are trying to reduce their
vulnerability, lower their risk of disruptions, and take on general
industry practices that provide better security.
But as security technology becomes more
sophisticated, schools are being confronted by an intriguing question:
Who is responsible for running a security department today-traditional
security people, or the information technology (IT) workers who maintain
and run the technology?
It's a question that schools are debating,
even as they consider installing new cabling networks that will provide
the bandwidth needed for IP-based cameras and other equipment.
"If you invest in the infrastructure, you
need to also invest in who will oversee the technology,"
says Jesse Bradshaw, technology coordinator
for the 95th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. " Otherwise, it
will not be utilized to its maximum potential."
Some say the complex demands placed on
cabling infrastructure mean that IT should oversee school security
systems. But others, who are calling for a new form of cooperation
between IT and security departments, say that schools must help build a
bridge between both departments.
"People who adopt these [systems] are
driving for a convergence between the two," says Frank LaPlante, vice
president of marketing for Anixter Inc. (www.anixter.com),
based in Glenview, Ill.
Colleges and universities have long invested
in security technology, using analog surveillance cameras for remote
parking areas and garages or even computer labs. But security
investments have slowly started to amp up during the past two years.
"Certainly, we are now seeing an increase over what has been used in the
past," says Geoffrey Tritsch, president of Compass Consulting
International Inc., based in Medfield, MA. The company is an affiliate
with the Association for Technology Professionals in Higher Education,
based in Lexington, KY.
"We are seeing a lot of heightened security;
on campuses, this is becoming the hot button," says Ron Walczak,
president of Walczak Technology Consultants Inc., based in Prospect, PA.
The company conducts vice/data network consulting for higher education.
In the post Sept. 11 environment, colleges
are driven to protect students from unsafe situations or physical
threats. They are seeking systems that will provide dormitories with
access control that allow students entrance but keep everyone else out.
They need video systems that will monitor their facilities and the
public spaces adjacent to them.
"A college has to protect against problems
and anticipate them," says John Pryma, vice president and general
manager for Genesis Cable Systems, based in Pleasant Prairie, WI. "They
need to be totally responsible and prevent these things from happening,
or else they could be sued."
And college campuses aren't alone, Tritsch
says. Interestingly, security concerns and their accompanying technology
drives have been spilling over from urban colleges to public schools in
rural towns. School administrators believe that since the number of
incidences of attack are increasing in society, public schools
everywhere are now more vulnerable. The integration of networks to other
systems is increasing the vulnerability, and increasing the potential
impact of a threat.
"Schools have always had a great deal of
these concerns, especially urban schools," says Tritsch. " But now, more
rural schools that were never concerned about video surveillance or
locking dorms and the like are becoming increasingly concerned with it
because of what is happening in the world today," he continues. "These
problems are no longer strictly urban concerns."
But some IT managers for public schools say
the security issue can be overblown. Public elementary schools, it is
argued, are more menaced by computer viruses than by student vandals.
"Kids are not sophisticated enough to do anything until they get to
junior high or to high school" say Bradshaw. "Overall, our network just
needs virus protection.
But still, Bradshaw notes that his school
district has installed locking enclosures that protect networks from
tampering. And he also believes his school district is falling short
when it comes to safely monitoring its parking lots.
Potential parking lot attacks are not the
only threat. Too offer, the threat can come from inside the school's
halls. Rick McNees, vice president of marketing for iTRACS Corp., based
in Westchester, IL, refers to a recent incident at a university in the
United Kingdom, where students broke into a telecom room closet and
stole switches from the network.
"Students are not checked, and they get
through metal detectors, and then they are unencumbered and not
challenged as they walk through the building," says McNees.
LaPlante noted a similar incident at a
university in the Midwest. "Someone broke in drunk, stole a router, and
brought the entire dorm's network down," says LaPlante. "You need to
physically protect that part of the network."
Technology at a price
Many schools are now buying into savvy,
high-tech security devices. But such technology comes with a price. In
many cases, it calls for upgrades in the campus or school cabling
"There is a lot of older cabling still
installed in campuses—Category 3 and older—that does cause some
concerns," says Tritsch. "You can handle 10 megabits on a Category 3
cable, but not much more than that. These schools will have to upgrade
Until recently, surveillance cameras tended
to be analog, black and white, "fixed" devices aimed at a certain area,
such as a parking lot. These cameras are usually reactive in nature,
letting security professionals go back and view a suspicious or criminal
event after it has taken place.
Security equipment today, however, is moving
from analog to digital, and manufacturers are striving to create "
intelligent" security technology—devices that raise alerts at the
earliest sign of trouble. NetBotz, manufactures monitors that view
remote, distributed sites where organization's house critical assets and
spaces. Anixter's CCTP system is a solution that allows for the running
of CCTV cameras and other devices over unshielded twisted pair cable.
"Intelligence is necessary to make this
possible, and it can only be effective if it is digitally-based and in
some kind of network," says LaPlante.
Some schools are installing digital systems
to protect their networks from damage, intentional or otherwise. Chris
Clasen, a sales representative for LanJam, based in Santa Cruz, CA,
reports that public schools are buying locked racks and enclosures to
protect their networks from vandals. LanJam is a sales organization for
a group of cabling component manufacturers.
Clasen says schools are increasingly veering
away from open architecture, and buying the locking cable boxes that can
provide network security. "There's just more awareness of security,"
says Clasen. "They don't want kids breaking into the stuff and stealing
In another example, Ben Davis High School in
Wayne Township, IN, recently installed two VRK-44-31H video rack
enclosures and a four-bay Quiet-Cool Series surveillance and monitoring
console from Middle Atlantic Products, which serves as the nerve center
of the control room. The system monitors more than 200 cameras covering
an estimated 1 million square feet. The sensitive monitors and digital
recorders are operational at all times.
"We need a top of the line console that
would accommodate the computer/Internet-based system," says Chuck
Hibbert, the director of safety and transportation for the Metropolitan
School District of Wayne Township.
Ron Walczak's company, which designs cable
distribution systems for schools, recently designed a digital video
surveillance network for a school district's main telecom equipment
room. The cameras recorded an electrician who accidentally broke a wire,
shutting off a mail server for the district. The electrician initially
denied cutting the wire.
"After that person was shown what happened
(on the camera), he lost his job," says Walczak. "Why are schools going
for these? Because of the cost of vandalism and the cost of downtime."
So, who's in control here?
Schools are learning that winds of change
are coming with each network security and IP-based camera installation.
They are asking questions like: Where does security's domain now fall?
Is it the responsibility of an organization's IT department or does it
answer to itself?
Schools, like other end users, often have
security officers or departments. And if a secure network is the goal,
schools must form a management plan that makes the best use of their
resources. Some manufacturers argue that IT is destined to play a
greater role in this collaboration. In the end, LaPlante says, IT
departments will most likely be responsible for choosing the security
technology that will be used in the academic environments. He says the
complexity of these systems-their installation, maintenance and use-will
naturally put IT workers in a leadership role.
"The people making the decisions on the new
technology come from an IT background, where the budget come from," says
LaPlante. "So they are going after technology they are comfortable
Tritsch agrees that both campus security and
IT will have to work together more-and that may not be easy. Tritsch
says, traditionally, schools have no common management structure for
security, facilities and IT. "It varies from campus to campus. Some work
very well together, and on some campuses they have nothing to do with
each other," says Tritsch. "There's long been a trend where IT said, "I
don't want my stuff riding on your (security) network. I'll put my own
copper or fiber in so security can deal with it's own network.' But that
is slowly going away.
LaPlante says the trend's departure will
force IT into the school security limelight. He points out that since
security guards typically come from law enforcement or military
backgrounds, a chief security officer typically does not have the
background needed to choose, install or run the technology.
"It comes down to who makes the decisions
and who holds the purse strings," says LaPlante. "There's a lot of
intelligence for this in the IT department. It takes up a lot of their
bandwidth, and it's all happening under the radar."
Since this trend has yet to catch fire in
the business world, it will also likely be a slow transition for
academia. LaPlante says only about half of the security departments in
fortune 1000 companies report to IT departments.
"This is not happening as rapidly as we
thought it would," says LaPlante. Mark Tracy, director of marketing for
Middle Atlantic Products Inc., based in Riverdale, NJ – maker of the
Quiet –Cool surveillance and monitoring systems- says that even as the
two sides work together, there needs to be a clear division of duties.
"It is increasingly heading in this
direction," says Tracy. "But is there still a security director? Yes.
They will be responsible for the layout of the way physical security is
done. But managing the technical side should be their (IT's) idea.
LaPlante notes, however, "We have to be
careful not to say that this responsibility will be completely wrenched
away form security. People will still need help from traditional
security personell. It's very much a collaborative effort."
Bradshaw says public schools are slow to
approach the issue, and notes that in many school districts, most of the
security funding is being diverted to the actual network infrastructure,
while not enough forethought is going into who is responsible for
running and supporting it.
"They are technologically savvy, but too
many schools just don't have that support," Bradshaw says. "There needs
to be a combined effort between physical security and the technology