Network security test request puts Hermon board at odds with its school department

A proposal before Hermon voters to have an outside firm test the security of the city’s Internet network has pitted the city council against the local school department, which says a review of the network it operates is unnecessary.

Hermon voters will decide at a special town meeting on Thursday whether they should spend $54,000 to have an outside company review and test the internet, which is the town’s source of internet access for municipal operations.

The proposal comes amid questions from councilors about the school department’s relationship with Nightscape Tech, the local company that provides internet service to residents using the school department’s network.

The school department’s IT manager is a co-founder of the company.

The security review is one of six questions on the mandate of the special municipal assembly. The city is required to get permission from voters before spending $25,000 or more, according to City Manager Harold Kroll.

If approved by voters, the city will hire a Pennsylvania company to perform the security review and testing and conduct an inventory of technology equipment and software owned by the school department.

Hermon School Superintendent Jim Chasse on Wednesday called the proposal unnecessary.

“The school department engages auditors to review various aspects of its operations, including vendor relationships and activities, and to date they have not identified any issues,” he said.

The superintendent also questioned whether the city had the legal authority to “unilaterally audit or investigate the school department.”

Councilors voted 5 to 1 on August 24, with one councilor absent, to hold the special municipal assembly.

Councilor Anthony Reynolds voted against her outfit, saying it was up to the school department to initiate such a review, not the board.

Nightscape Tech was incorporated in 2015 and is located in Hermon. One of its co-founders is Jeffrey Wheeler, IT department manager at the Hermon School since the mid-1990s.

The company worked with the Hermon School Department to provide Internet access to local residents using the school network, taking advantage of network capacity during times when school is not in session, according to the company’s website. This collaboration appears to have evolved from a dial-up Internet connection offered free to residents the year after Hermon High School opened in 1995.

The service, now through an upgraded fiber optic network, costs $9.99 per month for residents and $34.99 for small businesses, plus a $99.99 setup fee.

Councilor Charles Lever IV, who works as an IT manager for the Bangor Housing Authority, earlier this year raised questions about Nightscape’s relationship with the school department and network security practices.

Lever said in a Facebook post that the school department didn’t answer most questions and repeatedly refused to meet with the board.

“The city owns the fiber optic cable, but it’s administered by the school department,” Lever said. “Nightscape takes the Internet connection that belongs to the school (paid for with taxpayer dollars and federal grants from the Federal Communication Commission’s ERate program) and resells it to residents and businesses in the city of Hermon for a fee .”

Lever did not respond to a request for comment.

Chasse, however, said the school department responded to the board’s questions and did not receive any follow-up questions from the board.

The superintendent expressed concern Wednesday that the board’s request would damage the relationship between the city and the school department. He also said that a test and audit of the system was unnecessary.

The school department “has a robust firewall in place to protect student and staff information,” Chasse said.

“We have had no flaws in our network and our auditors have tested and approved our purchases and processes and have not verified any reason to believe that any company is operating from our facilities,” he said. declared.

Representatives for Nightscape Tech did not respond to a request for comment.

The special town meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Hermon Public Safety Building.

Kevin M. Risinger