Working together to prioritize cybersecurity

National IT Professionals Day is celebrated annually on the third Tuesday in September to show appreciation for those who have dedicated their lives to keeping systems safe and efficient— Jennifer Le and Daniel Akwei are among them. 

As information security analysts in the district, they are making a huge impact on cybersecurity, said Michael Anderson, deputy chief of Educational Technology. 

“Each day, they perform a series of checks and reviews that help the security team at large to understand if there were or are any cybersecurity or privacy matters that should be investigated further,” Anderson said. “If need be, this team will spring into action to lead the investigative work as well as the incident management. They are the youngest and most talented cybersecurity analysts I’ve ever worked with since I entered management in 2002.”

Le and Akwei are both relatively new to the district, with about one and two years of district experience respectively, but they said they are driven by a “strong sense of togetherness” within Dallas ISD as well as a passion for keeping students safe.

As the district’s Cybersecurity Threat and Vulnerability Management team, they are constantly analyzing data logs and district devices for any abnormalities that could indicate a security risk. It can be difficult at times, but Akwei said the Educational Technology team helps keep him motivated. 

“Working with my colleagues is the most amazing thing ever,” Akwei said. “Everyone is willing to help and share their knowledge, and we always have team dinners. I really enjoy that. So overall, the whole Educational Technology department in my experience is the best.”

Being focused, fast, flexible, and friendly are all key components of providing cybersecurity support to the district. While Le and Akwei make up a small team, they interact with a variety of customers from principals to concerned parents, so they keep the Core 4 at the center of everything they do. 

“Focusing on what they’re requesting is very important because sometimes it can be broad,” Le said. “We have to come in with a sense of urgency, making sure everybody feels like time is being dedicated to them, and we have to be flexible because you never know what is going to happen at any moment of the day. And, of course, we need to be friendly, especially when something is urgent. That balance is very important when trying to resolve an incident or some kind of case that’s been brought to us.” 

One of their most common tasks is helping safeguard district employees from phishing attacks, both by educating their peers on best safety practices and by guiding people through securing their devices after phishing incidents. 

“I feel like I’m giving back,” Le said. “We have a part in ensuring that our students are safe, not just on the internet, but mental health-wise as well. I think that’s very important, especially with how many students we oversee every single academic year.”

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