As cyberthreats continue to evolve, it is crucial for higher education institutions and universities to be vigilant. Enforcing security strategies prudently designed to safeguard digital assets and the integrity of their academic research provides better cyber resilience.
The education sector has become a prime target for attackers due to the vast amount of sensitive data, including personal information of students and staff. Hackers may also find a lucrative opportunity in stolen research findings, intellectual property, and financial records from higher education institutions.
Another point worth noting, is the increased attack surface created by the multitude of transitory users and devices connected to the network. This exposure sets the stage for cyber criminals looking for an opportunity to exploit more susceptible targets. With limited resources dedicated to cybersecurity, the education sector is in a constant race against the tactics of the attackers and tackling the challenge of evolving cyberthreats.
The education sector often struggles to evade compromises to their sensitive data and disruptions to their operations caused by:
- Data leaks
- DDoS attacks
- Software vulnerabilities
- Insider threats
- IoTs risks
Attacks on schools, universities, and other education organizations rose from January 2021 to September 2023 peaking at 32 reported attacks in June 2023. Ransomware groups, like Vice Society and Rhysida, whose attacks have historically focused on education sector entities contribute majorly to this rise.
It is both critical and inevitable that the educational sector must adopt a holistic cybersecurity approach to protect the data and people via robust network security measures and proactive threat detection to safeguard their digital infrastructure. Here are a few recommendations:
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Add an extra layer of security by enforcing MFA for accessing sensitive systems to mitigate the threat, even if the login credentials are compromised.
- Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Scanning: Stay ahead in the game by utilizing periodic third-party assessments to identify vulnerabilities in the network, systems, and applications to remediate any gaps promptly.
- Monitor Network Traffic: Install firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and segment networks to ensure network safety. Deploy network detection capabilities to promptly identify any unusual patterns that may indicate a security threat and remediate the situation.
- Table Top Exercises Conduct drills to ensure the effectiveness of an Incident Response plan and ensure the entire organization is familiar with the plan.
- Endpoint Protection: Enforce mandatory measures to deploy robust antivirus and anti-malware solutions on all devices including computers, laptops, and mobile devices connected to the university network.
- Data Encryption and Backups: Encrypt sensitive data to protect against unauthorized usage and perform regular backups of critical data to ensure the availability of data in case of an unfortunate incident.
- Access Controls: Regularly review and update access permissions to ensure that users only have access to the information and resources applicable for their roles by implementing the principle of least privilege.
- Patches and Updates: Maintain a process for timely software updates and patches. Use attack surface management to reduce the surface.
- Awareness and Training: Ensure that the students, faculty, and other staff are aware of . the devastating effects of phishing scams, social engineering etc
OpenText™ Cybersecurity Services
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Our approach is unique in the market. We pride ourselves as leaders in Information Management and we approach cyber from that lens, to help improve cybersecurity postures with greater visibility, maturity and readiness.
Co-Author: Rajam Nair is a Service Program Manager for OpenText Managed Security Services customers. As a seasoned senior member of the practice, Rajam brings in-depth expertise in Security Operations and Artificial Intelligence to drive excellence in service delivery and customer satisfaction. Rajam ensures precise and outcome-driven oversight of our customers’ cyber resilience programs, emphasizing meticulous governance to achieve optimal results.