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Securing student and employee digital access secures your university’s brand


Securing student and employee digital access secures your university’s brand

Warren Small

Warren Small | Global Vice President Transformation, Security

Ironically, as the digital era removes limits on access to information, it is universities, themselves symbols of free and unlimited access to information, that may be most threatened.

Precisely because universities don’t wish to impede student access to information, they have concentrated less on securing their networks and technology platforms than on other areas of IT. Also, internal competition for tightly constrained IT spend tends to be focused on increasing control of information rather than improving access to it.

Unintentionally, therefore, universities make themselves susceptible to cyberattacks. Many have become part of global botnets. Mostly, this happens because students tend to visit unsecured networks and fall prey to malware. There may also be vulnerabilities in a university’s internal systems that can be compromised. Regardless of the cause, a university that contaminates its own and other research and education communities while overlooking the weaknesses in its defences is highly likely to suffer damage to its reputation and brand.

In addition, the risk of losing its own data because it just doesn’t have appropriate cybersecurity defences in place should make every university reprioritise its IT spend.

The good news is that security isn’t that difficult or expensive to implement.

Step 1: Use the cloud for common security functions

Some of the burden can be eased by moving administrative and other common security functions into the cloud. This gives universities the benefits of world class, best practice security at less cost than an in-house implementation. And, it ensures that employees can get on with their jobs without compromising the brand.

Step 2: Know your students

Securing the university’s own network takes a little more thought and planning. It’s partly a technology challenge that initially boils down to knowing your students and users. Highly effective security can be achieved if you know which students need particular levels of access to which data. This enables you to authorise them accordingly.

Then you need automated monitoring of the network, again with student context in mind. If your student base is primarily Chinese, why is someone from Russia on the network?

Step 3: Educate and encourage them

Beyond the technology considerations, it’s essential also to pro-actively teach and encourage students to embrace authentication and network security in general as a way of ensuring that the resources they get from your institution are clean and valid. Their future depends on it.

This may be your toughest security challenge, simply because students expect ubiquitous, easy access. Stodgy authentication processes that kick in slowly or official networks that plod along will only drive students to risk seemingly easier but less secure options.

So, your cybersecurity has to be slick and seamless and, therefore, dare one say it, cool.

That’s not something universities inherently focus on. It’s not part of their general mandate. But it is the mandate of specialist cybersecurity providers. It’s their entire focus and reason for existence. Best, therefore, to tap in, through a close partnership, to the expertise and capabilities of a provider that not only has global cybersecurity credentials and a proven appetite for continuously staying ahead of the threat landscape but also understands and can enable the specific requirement of universities to be open and free. Your brand depends on it.

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