Colleges and universities collect an immense wealth of data from students (and often, their families) during admissions and enrollment processes. These days, much if not all of this data makes its way into a digital environment. A strategic cyber risk and governance scheme is imperative in protecting the data from prying eyes (or your clever students conducting pen tests).

The National Institute of Standards in Technology (NIST) provides regulatory guidelines for organizations that exist within their higher-ed network. Adoption of compliance measures is critical in preventing cyber intrusions. In addition, your organization may be able to go above and beyond in terms of cyber security, ensuring a pristine reputation and zero financial losses for the community.

 “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” as Warren Buffet once put it.

Ahead of exploring further risk management options, consider what experts are seeing within the education sector, as it pertains to cyber risk.

Cyber risk, education sector

  • From June to September of 2020, more than 1,000 educational groups contended with a total of 3.5 million spear-phishing attempts. In addition, 30% of education sector-based participants have fallen prey to phishing attempts.
  • Other threats. IoT devices can provide cyber criminals with easy access into network environments. IoT devices represent a substantial challenge for educational institutions. Ransomware attacks, business email compromise attacks and DDoS attacks are also on the rise.
  • High costs. Educational institutions and organizations face costs that are as high as $4.77 million after a cyber attack.
  • Lack of preparedness. As many as 71% of education sector groups state that they are unprepared to contend with cyber attacks.

You can advance your college or university’s mission to provide transformative, high-quality education by solving challenging cyber security issues. The absence of strong cyber security takes away from overarching organizational objectives.

Cyber security risk management, education sector

Plugging every threat is a challenge. The rapid shift to online and hybrid education has only led to additional struggles. Here’s how can the education sector mitigate potential cyber security gaps.

  • Network segmentation. With network segmentation, your are literally dividing your network into different “chambers.” This can prevent a cyber attacker from moving laterally across your system.
  • Web application security. Strong cyber web application firewalls protect against phishing, DDoS attacks and other malicious activities.
  • Zero Trust Access (ZTA). A Zero-Trust approach ensures that users only have access to materials or platforms needed. A hacker who nefariously obtains a given individuals’ credentials is then less likely to be able to disrupt systems.
  • Phishing awareness. Organizations should be sure to provide phishing awareness training to staff and students, at minimum. Within the education sector, 41% of cyber security breaches occur on account of phishing. Offering larger-scale cyber security awareness training will also benefit institutions.
  • Comprehensive academic programming. As a component of your organization’s academic offerings, consider a security solutions curricula for those interested in IT. You can partner with cyber security firms that offer expert-led cyber security programming, providing your students with both learning opportunities and potential career paths.

For more information about protecting your educational organization from cyber attacks, see the Top 6 ways schools can avoid ransomware attacks.