Case Study

Waubonsee Community College gets an “A” in IoT security

This Illinois-based education institution improved visibility, lowered risk, and strengthened its security posture by deploying Palo Alto Networks IoT Security across four campuses and its online community.

In brief


Waubonsee Community College




United States of America

Products and Services

In-person and online education

Organization Size

Four campuses and online


Enhance the learning environment with IoT, while ensuring the device, research data, and student data are protected

    • Get insight into every device: type, baseline behavior, and assess risk
    • Ensure that new IoT devices don’t cause network downtime or add security risk
    • Adhere to strict security regulations and best practices, like segmentation and enforcement, while maintaining an open exchange of data and ideas

Palo Alto Networks IoT Security ­afforded the college:

    • Complete visibility into thousands of unmanaged IoT devices
    • Zero disruption or modification to existing security infrastructure.
    • Ongoing risk assessment of IoT devices, identifying threats as they arise
    • Strengthened overall security posture
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Protecting data, privacy, and the open exchange of ideas

For more than 50 years, Waubonsee Community College has provided high-quality academic programs to give lifelong learners the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing economy. Providing over 30,000 students with cutting-edge resources and giving them the freedom to explore a wide range of subject areas are core to Waubonsee’s mission.

Across its four Illinois campuses and its robust online community, students and professors often need access to custom technology and tools to conduct research and connect with each other. Operating several open, digitally enabled campuses introduces significant security risks, however—particularly when hundreds of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, from smart TVs to security cameras and credit card machines, must be protected. Incomplete security can not only put students’ educational, employment, health, or financial records at risk, but even compromise their personal safety.


Lock down device security but keep ideas flowing

As the college’s information security manager, it’s Tarun Trivedi’s responsibility to ensure students have a streamlined and safe educational experience wherever they are in the Waubonsee system. However, as a department of one at the time, he knew definitively securing the entire Waubonsee network, and every device on it, would be nearly impossible without deep visibility into all the devices and their risk levels.

“We ran into a lot of unknowns,” Trivedi says. “I had no way of knowing where these devices were communicating.” During his regular check-in meetings with Waubonsee’s CIO, he realized he couldn’t provide a full report of each device’s risk status or an overall assessment of network security.

Trivedi knew he needed a robust solution to monitor and manage Waubonsee’s various security risks. He was looking for a platform that would give him a clear baseline and assessment of risk for every device, a simple and seamless implementation process, an intuitive user interface, and great customer support. He also didn’t want the new solution to impact the current system or modify any of the hardware or software already in place.


Discover and protect all IoT devices

Trivedi and his network team had very specific requirements in mind. They needed:
  • Complete visibility into the entire IoT network, with categorization of 1,000 devices and their risk levels
  • Seamless, phased implementation with no disruption or modification of existing systems
  • Real-time monitoring to keep devices protected while enabling collaborative student engagement


We ran into a lot of unknowns … I had no way of knowing where these devices were communicating.

Tarun Trivedi, Information Security Manager, Waubonsee Community College


Implement the best-fit IoT security solution

Thanks to a customized deployment plan, Trivedi was able to make sure deployment didn’t cause any downtime or disruption and that the existing security technology stayed in place. His new IoT security system first monitored and secured specific sets of devices and virtual local area networks (VLANs), and then was expanded to cover other areas of the network, broadening and strengthening the college’s security posture.

Waubonsee wanted risk assessment for every device, easy implementation, an intuitive user interface, and great customer support. They got it all with Palo Alto Networks IoT Security.


Seeing is securing

Trivedi now has full visibility into the types of devices in Waubonsee’s network, and he can see all traffic originating from all devices within and beyond the network. IoT Security helped him discover that the approximately 1,000 devices in his system consisted of 40 device types, including five different kinds of security cameras.

Inject some “personality” into security

With machine learning and three-tier profiling technology creating a unique personality for each device, IoT Security alerts Trivedi and his team members whenever a device strays beyond its normal behavior. For example, shortly after deployment, the solution discovered that a printer was communicating with its manufacturer to receive software updates. This violated Waubonsee’s security policy, which specified that devices should only install software updates via internal servers. Trivedi was alerted that this device was engaging in high-risk behavior, and his team was able to promptly change the printer’s settings to reduce the risk of a breach.

Secure the bigger picture with confidence

When Trivedi provides status reports to his CIO, he can now show a comprehensive list of all devices at Waubonsee and their risk levels. The visibility IoT Security provides clarifies any previously unknown risks, and Trivedi can be confident that he has an accurate picture of the entire Waubonsee’s network’s IoT security posture.

Securing data, privacy, and collaboration

Like other industries that handle sensitive user data, higher education is regulated by a strict set of security standards. Educational institutions like Waubonsee must invest heavily in security since any vulnerability in smart building devices, cameras, payment machines, computers, and more could enable hackers to steal critical student data anywhere in the network.

Still, a strong security posture shouldn’t come at the cost of facilitating open and collaborative learning. For example, to help Waubonsee students’ pursuing programming careers in game development, Trivedi’s team helped gaming clubs on campus create their own tendered file networks. With IoT Security, Trivedi can easily monitor students’ devices without disrupting their academics or recreational time.

In a digitally interconnected system like Waubonsee’s, Trivedi says, “risk needs to be dealt with from all perspectives and not just one dimension.” As opportunities for users to engage with technology continue to grow, maintaining visibility and control over multidimensional IoT security risks will become even more critical.

Visit us online to find out more about how IoT Security can help you improve visibility, protect your IoT devices, and strengthen your overall security posture.