Godwin Heights Public School District

Cloudflare Magic Transit protects Godwin Heights Public School District against frequent, damaging DDoS attacks

Godwin Heights PSD is a K-12 school district located near Grand Rapids, Michigan, comprising four school campuses and an alternative education learning center. As a participant in Michigan’s School of Choice program, Godwin Heights attracts many students from Grand Rapids whose families are seeking a more small-town school environment.

“Many of our students’ families are financially disadvantaged. Some of them are homeless, living in vehicles or in shelters,” explains Johann Radloff, Director of Information Services. “Our district gets a lot of funding for free lunches and other programs to meet our students’ socioeconomic and emotional needs. As a district, we’re really focused on equity, in both education and in meeting our student’s social and emotional needs.”

Challenge: Persistent DDoS attacks constantly knocked Godwin Heights schools offline

Godwin Heights was suffering repeated DDoS attacks, often perpetrated by students themselves. “We’ve changed our IP address a bunch of times, but the attackers would just change their attack to the new IPs,” Radloff recalls. “That tells me the attackers were familiar with our system.”

This problem is not unique to Godwin Heights PSD. “Other school districts have the same issues,” Radloff says. “Sometimes, students want to bring down the system to get a day off school or avoid a test. Sometimes, they just want to prove they can do it, and sometimes, they don’t even understand what they’re doing.”

The attacks caused considerable classroom downtime, to the point that teachers began preparing paper lessons and assignments as backups in case the internet went down. In addition, attacks during the standardized testing season cost the district money. “We have to hire and pay outside subs as proctors for testing week,” Radloff says. “If there was an attack during that week, we’d end up having to repeat the process because some of the tests wouldn’t go through.”

Unfortunately, the DDoS mitigation service provided by Godwin Heights’ ISP was of little help. “Even getting them to turn it on was painful,” Radloff says. “I’d have to monitor for attacks throughout the day, and when one started, I would call our internet vendor, and they’d call the ISP to turn on the DDoS mitigation service. Even when the vendor finally turned the mitigation on, it took long enough for it to have any effect that our network traffic would slow to a crawl. I don’t know how much traffic they were mitigating, but we had a lot to handle, and our ISP DDoS service wasn’t handling it.”

Solution: Magic Transit lets Godwin Heights PSD focus on educating students, not working around DDoS attacks

Radloff was introduced to Cloudflare Magic Transit, which protects entire IP subnets from DDoS attacks, when she received a phone call from a Cloudflare representative. She was immediately impressed with the representative’s empathy and professionalism: “He clearly wanted to go above and beyond to solve our DDoS problems. He talked about Cloudflare’s work with other school districts and demonstrated how Magic Transit could help us.”

Within the first two weeks of deployment, Magic Transit blocked hundreds of large DDoS attacks. “I didn’t have to tweak, adjust, or change anything. It just worked,” she says. “I no longer have to sit at my desk and wait for DDoS attacks to happen. Magic Transit just blocks them, and Cloudflare sends me weekly emails letting me know about it. I share the emails with our accounting department so they can see the value we’re getting from Magic Transit.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Godwin Heights PSD to switch to remote learning, its students were hit extremely hard. Because many students’ families lacked home internet access, the district worked to provide them with free wireless hotspots and cobble together devices that students could take home. Eventually, the district implemented a hybrid learning scenario where families can choose between face-to-face and virtual learning. However, if students become ill or are exposed, they must be quarantined and use virtual learning during that time.

The last thing Radloff and her teachers needed to worry about was a DDoS attack. “Between all the stress from the pandemic and the DDoS attacks we experienced last year, our teachers were scared. We’re working really hard to ensure that virtual students get the same quality of education as in-person students, and a DDoS attack would be a catastrophe,” Radloff says. “I was so happy to tell them that I had a new service in place, and they didn’t need to worry about DDoS. They can focus on teaching and all of the other issues our students are experiencing because of COVID-19. I can’t stress enough how much that peace of mind means to us.”

At the time of this interview, Godwin Heights was approaching the one-year anniversary of its last DDoS attack. “Cloudflare Magic Transit has made a huge difference to Godwin Heights Public School District. Last year, I had to sit at my desk and monitor for DDoS attacks. This year, I can focus on other duties because Magic Transit blocks these attacks.”

Godwin Heights Public School District
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    Key Results
    • Magic Transit blocked hundreds of large DDoS attacks within the first two weeks of deployment.

    • When COVID-19 forced Godwin Heights to adopt hybrid learning, Magic Transit protected schools’ wireless internet service from downtime, ensuring that virtual-learning students received the same quality instruction as in-person students.

    • Teachers do not have to prepare offline backups for Internet-focused lessons, saving them time.

    Cloudflare Magic Transit has made a huge difference to Godwin Heights Public School District. Last year, I had to sit at my desk and monitor for DDoS attacks. This year, I can focus on other duties because Magic Transit blocks these attacks.

    Johann Radloff
    Director of Information Services