3 things your school should know about Missouri State Auditor’s emphasis of cybersecurity

by Thompson Coburn LLP

Thompson Coburn LLP

Since being appointed in April of 2015, Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has consistently made cybersecurity a priority for her office. Ms. Galloway has focused on cybersecurity throughout all components of Missouri government, whether reviewing the security of the State’s vital records, auditing the case and record management system used by Missouri courts, or auditing the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Vital Records Systems. Her attention to this area has lead the State Auditor’s office to incorporate cybersecurity reviews into the standard audit process across all relevant industries. 

Ms. Galloway’s cybersecurity concerns have been particularly prominent when it comes to the protection of personal information within educational institutions. Ms. Galloway’s audit of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education found that the department was unnecessarily transmitting and storing student social security numbers — a practice Ms. Galloway ended. And then there was Ms. Galloway’s Cyber Aware School audits program — an initiative designed to prevent unauthorized access to student records and information. The program’s audit of the cybersecurity preparedness of Booneville, Waynesville, Cape Girardeau, Park Hill, and Orchard Farm school districts across the state produced tangible evidence of Ms. Galloway’s concerns. The results showed problems across key areas of cybersecurity with each of the school districts audited and came with recommendations for better preparedness, procedures, and policies to respond to potential cybersecurity incidents. 

So what does this all mean for schools and school districts in Missouri?

1) You must address cybersecurity 

Judging by the data breaches that make the news, it is tempting to think that if you do not have or maintain credit card information, you are not likely to be targeted for cyberattack. This is not true. The frequency of cybersecurity incidents and issues continues to rise every year. And the movement of information from paper files to electronic databases only creates more targets for attackers. Cybersecurity incidents are not only targeted attacks, but also crimes of opportunity, and span all industries and organizations. If your systems are vulnerable, if your employee training is lax, if your technology is out of date, or, if you are simply collecting large volumes of information and storing that information for extended periods of time, you are a target for a cybersecurity incident. 

It is imperative for you to address cybersecurity concerns BEFORE there is an incident. The necessity of cybersecurity preparedness — something Ms. Galloway has referred to as “a critical task for any educational organization” — is more than a “check-in-the-box” on the road to compliance. It makes good business and policy sense. That’s because an investment in cybersecurity makes you less of a target and saves money. 

Organizations that understand their vulnerabilities, address them, and have prepared written plans and procedures for dealing with cybersecurity incidents respond faster and more effectively to those incidents than organizations who do not. Faster responses limit damages and require fewer remedial measures. This means lower financial exposure when a cybersecurity event does occur. And when the cost of responding to a typical cybersecurity incident has risen to an estimated $4 million, savings are important. 

2) Cybersecurity is NOT just an IT issue

The focus of Missouri Auditor’s cybersecurity audits echoes that of cybersecurity professionals —cybersecurity is an organizational matter and not just an “IT problem”. Ms. Galloway has advocated for schools to take a holistic approach to data security and has recommended that districts implement a comprehensive data governance program. 

Ms. Galloway’s audits of Missouri School districts highlighted five common data security areas of concern:

  1. Data management programs — This refers to comprehensive plans and programs to help ensure access by those with a need to access sensitive data while simultaneously maintaining individual student privacy.
  2. Account management — This refers to policies and procedures for authorizing, reviewing, and removing user access to systems and sensitive data.
  3. Security precautions — This refers to the technical, administrative, and procedural limitations in place to protect the security of sensitive information.
  4. Incident response planning — This refers to a formal written plan or guidelines to respond to a data breach of security incident or to promptly resume business functions after an incident.
  5. Vendor contracts — This refers to policies and procedures for ensuring that third-party vendors respect and protect the security of sensitive personal information to the same extent as required by the school district.

To be effective, these five areas of concern should be addressed across the organization — not just in the IT department. They require diligence and training across the organization. And they require support from upper management to be effective.

3) Litigants are waiting and watching

Perhaps the biggest impact of the Missouri Auditor’s emphasis on cybersecurity is yet to be seen. By reviewing and offering recommendations to school districts on cybersecurity best practices, the Missouri Auditor is advocating for the inclusion of certain protocols and procedures to protect the security of student personal information in state school districts. It is unclear what impact these recommendations will have on future litigation. Will courts find that school districts that ignore the Auditor’s recommendations are liable for incidents that could have been prevented had the recommendations been followed? Will school districts that were not party to the audits be found liable if they fail to follow the recommendations and later suffer a cybersecurity incident? 

Schools should take notice of the Missouri Auditors’ recommendations and carefully consider those recommendations when looking at their own cybersecurity programs.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thompson Coburn LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Thompson Coburn LLP

Thompson Coburn LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.