Greek Ministry of Education Protects 65,000 Distance Learners with Check Point ZoneAlarm

By Amit Sharon, Head of Global Customer Community & Market Intelligence, Check Point Software Technologies

The COVID pandemic forced the Greek Ministry of Education to create a new, remote infrastructure for delivering education. Learn how the Ministry secured 65,000 tablets for students and teachers, enabling them to carry on with school—and without worry.

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The Greek Ministry of Education manages all of the country’s public schools, staff, and infrastructure. I recently visited with Socrates Chatzikonstantinou, Assistant Manager of the National Strategic Reference Framework Department for the Ministry of Education to hear how the Ministry delivered and secured its remote learning devices.

Established in 1833, Greece’s Ministry of Education administers the country’s education system. In 2020, the coronavirus presented the Greek Ministry of Education with a huge challenge. With schools closed, the Ministry now needed to deliver the same high-caliber education to students and teachers remotely. Although many students’ families had computers or mobile devices at home, students from low-income homes did not have access to classes that now were delivered via distance learning. For the first time, the Ministry had to create a remote infrastructure and ensure that it was secure.

Amit Sharon: What solution did the Ministry choose for its remote learning infrastructure?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: We decided to procure and distribute tablets to 65,000 students and teachers. However, we looked for a tablet solution that would be standalone—we simply could not manage that many devices centrally. We also needed to ensure that these devices would be secure. As a result, one of our requirements for an endpoint security solution was that it also could stand alone without central management.

Amit Sharon: Did you have additional security requirements?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: We conducted a study and market research to help us define our specific requirements. A primary consideration was that the solution we chose had to include Greek language settings. Because teachers or parents would be setting up the tablet for the student, the software had to be as simple as possible and understandable in our native language. We also needed a solution that could effectively protect students from inappropriate content and online predators—without continuous oversight or management. Finally, security had to be seamless. Neither cyber security attacks nor cumbersome security software could be allowed to slow performance or shut down learning.

Amit Sharon: How did you find the right solution?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: We held a public tender and 5 even vendors proposed solutions. To narrow the choices further, we asked several vendors to participate in live security tests. We included Check Point ZoneAlarm in our live testing because it is self-managed, affordable, and was readily available in Greek.

Amit Sharon: How did Check Point meet your objectives?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: Check Point took the initiative to have ZoneAlarm localized to Greek prior to the tender. Then they went above and beyond. Check Point also customized ZoneAlarm settings to predefine URL filtering permissions. This ensured that students could not change settings and inadvertently be exposed to inappropriate Internet content. Finally, the Check Point team worked with multiple hardware partners to tailor their final proposals to meet our needs. This meant that we could be sure of delivering a consistent solution anywhere in Greece, regardless of the local hardware partner we used.

Amit Sharon: What were the security testing results?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: Check Point proved highly effective. ZoneAlarm passed every test with flying colors, and it was the only solution that protected the tablets against zero-day threats.

Amit Sharon: How has Check Point contributed to the Ministry’s remote learning initiative?

Socrates Chatzikonstantinou: Check Point offers a complete security solution for us. Preset filtering capabilities meant that teachers and parents did not need to set up or fine-tune security software. When students turn on their tablets, protection is transparent and immediate. ZoneAlarm blocks malicious apps before they can be installed and validates every link that is clicked against Check Point ThreatCloud. Tablets stay protected, without central management having to continuously monitor or clean tablets. Threats can’t harm the software or hard drives, so there is no security-related downtime.

We have significant peace of mind that we can continue to deliver the best possible education, no matter whether in-person or remote.

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