Brevard Public Schools juggles cybersecurity and pandemic learning–here’s how IT leaders did it

When a cyberattack stopped district IT operations in their tracks, the IT team at Brevard Public Schools jumped into action to keep the district's data and network secure

Never before have educators been challenged and tested as they were, beginning in March 2020 and up until today, and never before has their resilience been more apparent. Administrators, technology leaders, classroom teachers, and educators in all roles have persevered as they taught each and every one of their students during a global pandemic.

The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards program, sponsored by Trox, recognizes the determined efforts of these educators and highlights their exemplary efforts and dedication to teaching and learning.

Discover more about Brevard Public Schools, one of the eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards winners:

Nominee: Brevard Public Schools

Nominated by: PDQ.com

What makes this nominee a hero?

Everyone likes a good scare on Halloween, but for the Brevard Public Schools IT team, October of 2020 brought a scare they’d never before experienced. At 10 p.m. on Halloween night, Barrett Puschus, the Director of IT for Brevard Public Schools, received a call from an unknown number. Because he was outside listening to music with his family, he ignored the call, only to see a message appear in his inbox. When he listened to the message, the Microsoft DART team (Microsoft’s cybersecurity arm) let him know it had flagged the Brevard School system with metrics that indicated the district was experiencing the onset of a ransomware attack.

Barrett immediately called the rest of his team, waking many of them up so they could shut the entire system down. They worked over the next several weeks to evict the intruders from their system. Then, Barrett worked closely with the district’s cybersecurity insurance company to find the exact point of entry for the malware. After identifying that the attack was enabled by phishing, Barrett worked across the district of 74,000 students and nearly 10,000 staff to tighten security protocols and prevent another incident. In fact, earlier this year, the same group of hackers tried to attack the system again, and the Brevard IT team worked for a week to protect the district.

Barrett’s leadership and commitment to cybersecurity has helped to protect the data of one of the largest school districts in the country and the fourth largest district in Florida. Having started his career in the classroom as a teacher, Barrett understands the importance of maintaining a reliable, secure network that minimally impacts a teacher’s ability to focus on teaching. In fact, earlier this month, Brevard Public Schools was one of six US K-12 public school districts awarded the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grant. This grant will sponsor an IBM Service Corps team of volunteers to provide BPS with a range of security services valued at $500,000.

On top of Barrett’s work to secure the Brevard Public Schools network this past year as the district navigated the global pandemic, Barrett has been an active champion for cybersecurity at all K-12 schools across the country. He has used his experience to help educate other K-12 IT professionals through media appearances and webinars. We believe that Barrett’s work at Brevard makes him a K-12 hero who should be recognized this year.

Laura Ascione
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