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Iola cybersecurity expert visits White House

Diane Doersch in the East Wing Library at the White House. Submitted photo

Doersch attends conference on digital risks in schools

By Holly Neumann

Diane Doersch was recently invited by first lady Jill Biden to attend the “Back to School Safely: Cybersecurity for K-12 Schools.”

The event was held on Aug. 8, at the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The event was led by Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Attendees included education ecnology leaders from districts, states, nonprofits, government and the private sector.

“Students across our country deserve to learn in an environment that is not only safe and secure physically, but also digitally. This means that schools need the best tools and information available to protect their networks and systems from the full range of cybersecurity threats,” said Jen Easterly, director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in a press release.

Doersch, who currently lives in Iola, said program was a multi-group approach to find ways to tackle the problems of cyberattacks on schools. The efforts will enhance the protection of school networks and the confidentiality of student and personal data they contain. The federal government, private industry and educational institutions shared their efforts to mitigate risks.

“I served as an enthusiastic supporter and representative of Consortium for School Networking (CoSN),” said Doersch. “I serve as the National Chair of Board of Directors for the organization. CoSN is the premiere association for school district chief technology officers, directors of technology, or other educational technology leaders. Our organization worked to invite superintendents to the convening so they could be part of the conversations to bring back to their school districts.”

She feels that this experience helped her to grow her toolkit of cybersecurity resources that she can share with organizations she assists.

The hope is that every school system can plan and prepare for digital risks in their schools and classrooms.

One of those risks is ransomware, which involves malicious software to encrypt the victim’s data and systems, and has been on the rise for school districts throughout the country. This can affect bus routes, contact information and anything else done digitally.

Doersch points out that just because something is funded and supported does not mean all threats go away.

“The funds will support more education to parents, students, staff, and communities,” she said. “This is crucial for school districts because protecting student data, maintaining operational continuity, building trust, and preparing schools to effectively respond to and mitigate cyber threats. By promoting cybersecurity resilience in K-12 education, the Department contributes to the overall security and well-being of students, schools, and communities.”

As the former Chief of Technology and Information for Green Bay Area Public Schools and now Senior Director of Information Technology for an educational non-profit, cybersecurity is always at the top of her mind.

“Organizational data breaches can ruin professional reputations of the institution, cripple school districts so learning stops, and personal information can be lost,” she said. “Building plans to reduce risk and quickly respond to incidences when they do happen is essential. Like the Boy Scouts – you always need to be prepared and practice your plans for when an incident may happen.”

She feels that cybersecurity is not just the technology director’s job.

“It takes a village to help everybody be ‘cyber safe,’” Doersch said.

She was honored to be invited to the White House.

“It was also something this farm kid from Iola didn’t think she would ever be able to do in her lifetime,” Doersch said. “It was very intriguing to experience all the things that we have seen of the White House like the East Wing Library, hearing the Army band music in the foyer, or walking down the long halls with artwork on them. Being in the White House around the topic of Cybersecurity elevated our collective efforts in working to keep our schools, students, and staff safe.”

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