4 min read  | Cyber safety

The increased need for cybersecurity in higher education institutes

Cybersecurity in higher education institutes has always been a major concern. Amidst the pandemic, it became an even bigger challenge for colleges and universities across Australia. As we’ve witnessed, cyber attacks increased in both volume and severity. 

This may be because the education sector has experienced a sudden digital transformation. Today, it is adapting, at a larger scale, to e-learning platforms and third-party tools. This has meant that cybersecurity in higher education institutions currently faces various pressure tests.

In 2019, cyber attacks on the Australian National University (ANU) and the Australian Catholic University were prominent examples of breaches in this kind of cybersecurity.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has only aggravated this risk. Here’s why.

Why is cybersecurity in higher education institutes under attack?

The continuing cyber risks higher education institutions face poses a timely question. Why are they such attractive targets? 

We believe it boils down to one, very obvious reason—the bread and butter of higher education. Here, we’re referring to the valuable data, information, and knowledge stored in these systems. This includes everything from emails and personal information to technical resources and research data.

Higher education institutions also lean toward innovation. Information-sharing is a core component in this process. This type of growth, however, doesn’t come without its own set of risks.

Universities tend to feature high-bandwidth connections supported by high-capacity wiring and expensive resources. They also have complex structures and processes. These factors make higher education institutes vulnerable to the work of cybercriminals. 

IT systems in higher education institutions also host a variety of users. This includes academic staff, administrative staff, and students. This means there are different levels of cybersecurity awareness, which lead to different vulnerabilities. In fact, most users believe that security controls hamper their productivity.

These institutions may also be using outdated technology and networks. Legacy systems, in particular, come with many security gaps. This was the cause of the ANU cyber attack

The truth is that universities and colleges are no different from businesses. They often collaborate with industry partners and third-party organisations. They outsource certain services and develop entrepreneurial branches. 

These activities and the extended value chains of these institutions lead to further complexities. A breach in one of these components can have a devastating effect on other components.

How can cybersecurity in higher education institutions meet these threats?

Higher education institutions can boost their cybersecurity primarily by:

  • Reviewing cyber resilience capabilities

The pandemic continues to affect cybersecurity in higher education institutions. With the confluence of old and new cyber risks, it’s high time to review your capabilities. 

The impact of security vulnerabilities can have significant financial and reputational consequences. Cybersecurity in higher education institutions, therefore, must focus on understanding cyber risks. 

Investing in measures like security penetration testing can mitigate current and emerging threats.

  • Outsourcing cybersecurity protection in higher education institutions

Outsourcing your cybersecurity can be a positive decision. This way, you ensure the implementation of safeguards for your data and systems, without wasting internal resources.

This may prove challenging, however, as these institutions may not see the need for an on-site chief information security officer. Fortunately, there are security service providers that provide the support of a virtual CISO. Their role is to actively identify critical security flaws within your institution in real-time. They also revise your security policies and make relevant recommendations.

Improve the cybersecurity in higher education institutions with the support of Triskele Labs

Given the pandemic, educational institutions need to ensure greater cybersecurity in higher education. That said, balancing the need for increased security with greater educational freedom is no easy feat. It is, however, a necessary goal.

Reach out to Triskele Labs and find out how we can help you safeguard your systems and data. We are a certified cybersecurity company and consultancy firm based in Australia.