Cyber Threats to Higher Education Institutions

Tuesday June 20, 2017Print Page

Centralized higher education labs were once a standard and necessary offering.  Now, an increasing number of higher education students have personal computers to support their studies, and they expect the higher education institutions they attend to provide appropriate security and privacy for the personal information they share with the institution.  With the plethora of connected devices, Colleges and Universities must consider the numerous points of potential vulnerability.  Colleges and Universities are one of the most frequently attacked organizations due to the nature of their networks. Most higher education institutions have a non-centralized security platform making it difficult to detect possible breaches or intrusions to the network.  Even if a possible breach could efficiently be detected, the non-centralized security platform makes it difficult for the institution to determine exactly where the breach originated or how it occurred.

Cybersecurity is often the last thing on the minds of faculty and students until an attack has occurred.  Similar to many businesses, Colleges and Universities participate in the global economy via their IT infrastructure’s connectivity to the Internet, which makes them equally, if not more vulnerable to information security breaches.  Viable cybersecurity policies, tools, and mechanisms are required to effectively secure the institutions and minimize their exposure to threats.  Dedicated resources are also needed to effectively manage information and cybersecurity risks.  The various security reports regarding the rise of data breaches in higher education foretell a potentially systemic challenge that must be aggressively addressed.

During the 2005-2015 time period, higher education was the industry with the highest number of cybersecurity breaches1.  Colleges and Universities during that time were the targets of 539 breaches involving nearly 13 million known records2.  These numbers show why security needs to be a serious concern for Colleges and Universities’ management.  Finding new tools and technologies to help identify and mitigate threats more efficiently should currently be of utmost importance to higher education institutions.

Wilson Consulting Group (WCG) assists many Universities and Colleges by providing specialized risk assessment and cybersecurity services.  WCG conducts vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to evaluate threats and vulnerabilities to the internal and external infrastructure of higher education institutions. The penetration tests evaluate the security posture by mimicking real-world information security attacks and cyber-attacks.  This allows WCG to identify methods attackers may use for circumventing the security mechanisms of Colleges and Universities’ applications, systems, and networks.  After the test has been performed, WCG provides a final report with written detailed explanations of all potential risks, technology-related vulnerabilities, and recommended steps for mitigating the deficiencies in an actionable format.

WCG also offers cyber intelligence and analytics services which monitor applications, databases, systems, and networks for any possible intrusions.  This solution also makes it easy for Colleges and Universities to comply with regulatory requirements for log data collection, review, archival, reporting and alerting, as well as file integrity monitoring, Our solution helps clients comply with  PCI-DSS, Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA, FISMA, NERC CIP and other industry regulations.

With the increasing rates of ransomware such as WannaCry, it is important for higher education institutions to protect themselves in advance of potential attacks.  Threats and risks arrive from various sources and evidence of their existence can be found within existing log and machine data. Essential visibility is gained through our cyber intelligence service.  When this data is processed by multiple automated machine analytical techniques, threats and risks are revealed like never before providing comprehensive network visibility.  Our technology’s extensive range of early indicators decreases the time it takes to detect a threat, which is crucial in mitigating and stopping any damage from potential attacks.  The integrated architecture ensures that, when threats are detected, customers can quickly access a global view of activity.  This fast access enables exceptional security intelligence and rapid response. This solution uniquely provides the actionable intelligence and incident response capabilities required to address today’s most sophisticated cyber threats.

Our increasingly connected world has made information security paramount for all Colleges and Universities and this is not expected to change anytime soon.  Higher education institutions face more cyber risks than ever before. The time to act on your institution’s data integrity is in the present; the sooner you act, the better.  WCG offers a holistic approach to your cybersecurity challenges. Utilizing experts such as WCG puts your institution’s data security among the best in class within the higher education industry.

  1. “Higher Education’s Vulnerability to Cyber Attacks.” University Business Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2017.
  2. Rose, Wayne E. “Are Higher Education Information Systems Inherently Insecure?” Are Higher Education Information Systems Inherently Insecure? | EDUCAUSE. Educause, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 June 2017
  3. Vogel, Valerie, and Joanna Grama. “The 2016 Top 3 Strategic Information Security Issues.” The 2016 Top 3 Strategic Information Security Issues | EDUCAUSE. Educause, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 June 2017

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