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Crown-owned network provider N4L completes massive schools security overhaul

Crown-owned network provider N4L completes massive schools security overhaul

Tech from Spark and Fortinet thwarted 399 million attempts to access inappropriate content in May

Seatoun School principal John Western with education minister Chris Hipkins and N4L CEO Larrie Moore.

Seatoun School principal John Western with education minister Chris Hipkins and N4L CEO Larrie Moore.

Crown company Network for Learning (N4L) has completed a cyber security roll-out to schools and kura across New Zealand.

The nationwide rollout to 2,450-plus schools was part of an upgrade to N4L's government-funded managed network, which provides more than 825,000 students, teachers and school staff with internet services for teaching and learning.

And if stats for May are any indication, it was sorely needed. N4L said the new filtering tools stopped more than 399 million attempts to access inappropriate content during the month.

Wellington’s Seatoun school was among the last of schools to be upgraded. 

At an event to mark the roll-out’s completion, principal John Western told minister of education Chris Hipkins that was reassuring to be able to let parents and the wider community know their kids were safer when using the internet at school. 

“We have worried about a safe learning environment forever - and certainly after the events in Christchurch, it only brought home how easy things can go wrong for people to access things on the internet,” Western said. 

Schools have a duty of care to make sure the experience is as safe as possible for our young learners, he said.

"So that means we need to have some confidence that they won’t inadvertently go to the wrong place or see the wrong thing. 

"We’ve used N4L for a long time and we have some scripting and certificates on all our devices to ensure we are even filtering Google images.”

Kim Shannon, head of infrastructure service at the Ministry of Education, said over the last five years, the government had invested more than $140 million in N4L so schools and kura can have a safer online learning environment.

N4L CEO Larrie Moore said the company’s job is far from complete because running the country’s largest managed network comes with "enormous responsibility" 

“Safety and security is a top priority for our company and there will always be work to do behind the scenes, with our government and technology partners, to keep the internet a fantastic, positive, safe place for learning,” Moore said.

Technology was not a silver bullet, he warned. Responsible digital citizenship is also needed for a safe online experience.

The roll-out, which averaged 225 schools every month, was delivered with the help of technology partner Spark, as well as global cyber security company Fortinet, which supplied the enterprise-grade firewall and web filtering solution.  

Eight initial roll-out panel members (AIS Corporation, Cyclone Computers, Isometric Solutions, New Era IT, Norrcom, Smart Computer Systems, Schooled Up IT, and Telco Technology Services) were later joined by Entity Hub, Fusion Networks, Revolutionise IT and Support IT to deliver the roll-out locally.

In May, N4L blocked more than four million cyber security threats and also prevented more than three million attempts to gain unauthorised access to school systems, the company said. 


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