CIRA tailors DNS filtering solution to Canadian education sector

Information security directors at Canadian school boards, colleges and universities looking to improve the cyber security posture of their facilities at a reasonable cost are being pitched a new domain filtering system by the country’s .ca registry.

The Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA) said Thursday it’s is now offering a specially-priced version of its D-Zone DNS Firewall for the education sector.

Dubbed the Cyber Security for Schools program, for 25 cents per student per year subscribing institutions have their Internet service connected to policy-based domain name servers (DNS) located here. Using a threat intelligence feed from a U.S. company called Nominum, DNS queries and IP addresses received are compared to a dynamically updated threat list so the service can block malware, ransomware, phishing attacks and links to and command and control IP addresses as well as a blacklist of unwanted sites like porn sites.

The education sector, where students may not have the latest patched endpoints and are often not shy about visiting risky sites, is a prime target for threat actors. Among the latest victims was Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ont., hit by a ransomware attack in May.

In an interview Mark Gaudet, CIRA’s manager of business development said the service isn’t a substitute for the standard layered defences education sector infosec pros should mount but an adjunct.

”Security in schools and universities is a real problem,” he said. “This is a solution that gives them extra protection, doesn’t require any software in their network or any change to configuration, and it gives them a really cool dashboard where they can see what’s been blocked form content filtering, what’s been blocked from botnets and phishing. It also has a Web proxy, so if you click on an adult site you get re-directed and tells you’ve been blocked.”

The service is already being used by five Canadian school boards and three universities. Among them is Alberta’s Wild Rose School Division, which covers 19 schools about 160 km north west of Calgary.

Jaymon Lefebvre, director of IT Services for the board, said in a statement that the district has a mobile-first strategy, driven by technology and learning strategies that are moving education beyond the classroom. “Because of this, it’s critical that our network blocks malware and malicious content so students and teachers remain protected, no matter where they are. This requires effective security that dynamically scales to meet growing demands and policy changes. The Nominum-CIRA Cyber-Secure Schools initiative and cloud security solution they provide ensures that the entire Wild Rose community is safeguarded from today’s dangerous threats.”

Dave Chiswell, CIRA’s vice-president of product development said in a statement that less than half of zero-day malware is detected by traditional anti-virus solutions. Since most malware uses DNS for command and control, the CIRA-Nominum solution “is an ideal first line of defense that complements any company’s security solution against emerging threats.”

(This story has been updated from the original to make it clear the cost is 25 cents per student per year)

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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