BRANCH COUNTY — Branch Intermediate School District Technology Director Aaron Cummings will review and negotiate with firms providing 24-hour cyber security for the district rather than bid on the services.
The BISD board found the complexity of determining what services are needed and which best fit the district did not lend to standard bidding even with an estimated cost of $40,000.
BISD Superintendent Kris Jenkins said districts across the state are increasing computer security after ransomware infected the Jackson Intermediate School District last year.
Homeland Security identifies ransomware as malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Malicious actors then demand ransom in exchange for decryption.
Two companies are receiving the most attention, Arctic Wolf and CrowdStrike, Cummings and Jenkins said.
The superintendent explained, “This is a service, so statutorily, we don’t have to go out for bid.”
The estimated price is lower than hiring local personnel, at least three people to provide the service, Jenkins said.
In its emergency, Jackson ISD did not go out for bid and hired Arctic Wolf. Calhoun ISD uses Crowd Strike.
“One vendor will call their detection method this and this other will call it something totally different, even though it’s the same thing. It’s really hard to compare side by side,” Cummings said.
CrowdStrike is one of the biggest ones in Michigan because the state’s partnering with them. Cummings said, “CrowdStrike might be just a little bit cheaper, and a little more complete.”
The technology director said Arctic Wolf will monitor equipment already in place.
With over 425 pieces of connected online equipment in the BISD system, Cummings will evaluate the services and price before bringing back a recommendation to the board.
Cummings said, “Nobody’s got a really good solution for Chromebooks or iPads yet. I don’t know that they’ve actually been ransomed.”
Jenkins said the 24-hour monitoring is essential after talking to Jackson ISD about the Arctic Wolf service in the last two weeks. “There was some abnormal activity on their network. They shut everything down and got it under control very quickly. It ended up nothing was bad.”
Jenkins said the Jackson superintendent told her they were getting their money’s worth with the company watching their system very closely.
— Contact Don Reid: dReid@Gannett.com.