Here’s an unlucky contradiction: Higher education institutions are hit with millions of malware attacks on a regular basis but simultaneously have the slowest recovery times following those attacks, compared to other sectors. Colleges and universities are an attractive target for criminal actors, but why?
The answer isn’t shocking. Campuses are treasure troves of sensitive information collected from students, administrators, staff members and others. They’re gold mines of intellectual property and proprietary data. There’s no doubt they’re vulnerable—the problem is, the systems and edge computing infrastructure in place don’t match the threat.
Maybe you’re experiencing this now—outdated systems, a lack of resources or a rigid budget. And any one of those things can make you feel like you’re in a tight spot for strengthening your defense. The good news is, there are always steps you can take on a path to a more resilient IT infrastructure.
In this blog we’ll take a look at:
- Factors leading to cybersecurity issues in higher education
- Steps you can take to strengthen your IT infrastructure
- How you can find the right partner to help
What factors are perpetuating cybersecurity issues in higher education?
As an IT professional, if it feels like the ability to keep up with the level of cyber crime gets more challenging by the year, you aren’t imagining it. Let’s take a look at the factors impacting the ever-growing security threats among higher education institutions.
Rise of ransomware attacks
In a report from Recorded Future, there was at least a 10% increase in ransomware attacks against colleges and universities in 2022 versus 2021, and so far, 2023 hasn’t been any more promising.
More data center real estate
As more colleges and universities implement edge computing to accommodate growing capacity requirements, there are more data centers to manage and protect. In some cases, colleges may be dealing with hundreds of edge computing sites across campus, which equates to more surface area to maintain and protect.
More remote learning
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced an accelerated adoption of online learning, a surge in remote access to systems by students and administrators broadened the risk of exposure. Collegis Education lists user compromise, ransomware and poor data hygiene as major challenges resulting from more remote learning.
An increase in IoT
The growing connectivity of IoT among colleges and universities that offer more advanced learning experiences has opened doors for cyber crime. According to Security Magazine, the complex integration and interconnectivity of systems has led to a rise in attacks.
Shrinking IT teams
Many IT teams at colleges and universities are trying to do more with less. When it comes to professional cybersecurity roles in particular, a global workforce study from ISC identified a gap of more than 3.4 million security professionals.
Human error threats
Security threats aren’t always malicious, sometimes they’re just the result of human error. Whether mistakes are made by busy IT team members or unauthorized individuals who access an edge center—we’re human, and while not intentional, the potential for real harm exists.
When evaluating threats, natural forces aren’t always the first thing we think of, but if we’re talking about avoiding downtime and disruption, we can’t ignore the threat of environmental factors like temperature and humidity.
Steps you can take to strengthen the security of your IT infrastructure
There isn’t just one solution for protecting your campus from cyber crime. Your approach to security should be multi-layered. Let’s take a look at a few strategies.
Implement physical and logical monitoring
If you’re one of the many campuses using edge computing, there is a security advantage on your side. Because edge data centers are stored locally, not centrally, if a site becomes compromised, it’s less likely your entire system will be impacted. That said, you still have to pay close attention to your edge sites. As they grow, so does the need for visibility and control. This is where monitoring, both physical and logical, comes into play.
There’s no cybersecurity without physical security. Physical security is the first line of defense. Your assets may be remote and disconnected, so to avoid data loss and prevent downtime, you need a way to keep an eye on them at all times. Equipping them with high-quality, integrated video surveillance systems enables remote, real-time monitoring, so you can watch out for unusual activity or environmental risks. You can also trace threats back to the source.
Next is the logical layer. Solutions such as a secure, cloud-based, end-to-end monitoring software centralize the management of appliances deployed across various locations, enabling always-on site monitoring to prevent failure and resolve issues quickly.
Adopt the ‘zero trust’ cybersecurity philosophy
IT teams at colleges and universities support the needs of a large, diverse group of stakeholders with different needs for accessing the campus around-the-clock, which makes it the perfect environment to adopt the ‘zero trust’ philosophy. This philosophy is about limiting access and permissions based on the user. Your default should be to deny access. Then, as certain people or systems become trusted, you can roll out permissions based on the need.
Find a partner who can help you deliver comprehensive security solutions
The IT teams that succeed in protecting their systems are the ones that take a strategic, integrated approach to security, considering both cybersecurity and physical security as equally important parts of the equation.
As IT departments across industries deal with shrinking teams, limited budgets and growing responsibilities, the load can be too much to bear without a partner. Find a partner who can help you comprehensively address security or just fill the gaps, such as holistic cybersecurity programs that include five key areas:
- Security consulting
- Design and implementation
These programs are backed by a global team of experienced certified experts who can help you maintain your resilience over time. Contact a team of experts to learn more about best-in-class security services and solutions.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, check out our eBook, How to be Resilient Against Cybersecurity Issues in Higher Education.