AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD’s head of technology said the district is “very prepared” to handle cybersecurity threats that the district can and will face, days after a swatting threat forced several schools into a secure protocol.
“We’ve been working with vendors to improve our monitoring of our systems,” Oscar Rodriguez, the Chief Technology Officer at AISD, told CBS Austin in a sit-down interview. “We’ve established relationships with a lot of state agencies. We partner with a lot of local nonprofits and private companies that help us augment our security posture to ensure that we can that our systems can continue. “
One possible technological threat that could put a wrench in those cybersecurity preparations: artificial intelligence.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’ not necessarily because of what districts do, but it’s just the sophistication of these attacks,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously, the advancements of A.I. play a role in that. Where, before, it was easy to see that if you got an email from, let’s say, somebody that English wasn’t their native language, you could sort of decipher that. With the implementation of AI, those emails are much harder to discern, you know, they’re crafted much better than language.”
Schools are often the target of cybersecurity threats, with the vast amount of private information schools hold. Those threats could come in the form of ransomware, or, as was shown last week, by threat of violence.
“It’s a threat, and it’s going to be an ongoing risk for any organization, even corporate or nonprofit,” Rodriguez said. “And so, it’s just a matter of really focusing on making sure our staff, families, students are careful, and they use that judgment and discernment to really evaluate an email before clicking on the link or opening the attachment.”
CBS Austin reached out to the Austin ISD police for any updates in its investigation to the swatting incident but did not hear back.