MFA initiative tightens district’s security, prevents cyber attacks

Implementing a more secure structure of online security, schools and businesses worldwide are promoting safer digital environments. The upgraded network is in place to prevent threats from accessing private information even when knowing people’s passwords.


Kami Ziegler

Authorizing…Logging into her computer, French teacher Sally Cushmore plugs in her MFA key fob to authenticate her online identity. All Souderton district employees are now required to apply this extra step when accessing their digital accounts.

As an extra form of security for Souderton Area School District employees, the Multi-Factor Authentication system (MFA) has been updated from previous years with teachers now using an app and key fobs to log into accounts.
MFA is a form of cybersecurity that uses multiple steps of identification for logging into online accounts.
Usually, a text message or email will have a code enclosed that someone will use to prove they are the account owner.
This account verification has been implemented in the school district for some time, but after the district’s 2019 ransomware attack where school servers and software were compromised, MFA was upgraded to include key fobs and texted codes for teachers to use to log into their school accounts.
“There are different ways that hackers can get your password,” website support technician Aaron Bates said. “It doesn’t matter that they have your password now because you have to authenticate it either with the key fob or a text message to your phone or even if they have it, it’s not necessarily going to be effective.”
Not only has MFA become a part of the district, but this more secure domain is becoming popular with other online users around the globe.
According to Director of Curriculum Instruction Assessment and Technology Katie Kennedy-Reilly, other schools throughout the country are starting to use MFA.
“With all things that are going on in the world, it’s a needed layer in all businesses, industries and education environments, especially,” Kennedy-Reilly said.
District employees authenticate themselves when using MFA through an app on their phones, or a UB key fob that will record their authentication.
Supervisor of Technology Services Walter Salevsky said that implementation of MFA over the years has been a “gradual build.”
The process was “a learning curve” at first, but now everyone is comfortable and familiar with logging in under more security measures.
According to French teacher Sally Cushmore, using MFA is not difficult.
For her, she has an extra step to complete when logging in and the only bump that has occurred for her is having to work with the system using a wireless keyboard.
“I use a wireless keyboard, so I have to unplug the thing to plug in my key and then plug everything back in,” Cushmore said, “but it takes two seconds. It’s really not that much more work.”
All district schools, including the elementary and middle schools, have also worked MFA into their staff’s routine.
With technology constantly evolving, some people are using these advancements for the wrong purposes.
People can have their accounts hacked and their private information stolen, which is why using MFA is crucial when trying to keep personal details private.
“There’s always been a concern for cybersecurity, but cyberattacks are up as technology gets better. People learn how to abuse it,” Bates said. “If you’ve seen on the news, there’s a lot of cyberattacks that happen every day.”