Open yet Secure: Cybersecurity for Higher Education

Open networks can be open doors for malicious actors, but there are preventative measures institutions of higher education can implement to defend against damaging cyber threats.

The easy-access culture of educational institutions invites students, teachers, and staff to connect and learn limitlessly— but also presents an opening for malicious actors and a challenge for IT professionals. How can institutions of higher education (IHE) provide an open operating environment and defend that environment against cyber threats?

Mitigating risks involves implementing preventative network security measures, including:

Continuous endpoint visibility— During summer vacation, many devices go missing from the network, which can present elevated risks of malware and out-of-date patches and updates. Investing in a security solution that provides remote detection and remediation services can help IT professionals retain visibility and reduce vulnerabilities year-round.

Selective provisioning— Students, faculty, and staff should be provisioned on the network differently and according to the appropriate level of access granted. They should also be deprovisioned upon leaving the IHE.

Controlling and restricting access— Related to selective provisioning, this security measure helps ensure that, even if high-level access credentials are stolen, they will not work on a device that is not authorized to log into the network with them. IHE can control or restrict access by taking into consideration:

  1. Workstation or device being used
  2. Session type (e.g., Wi-Fi or VPN)
  3. Working hours of the authorized user

Enforcing user responsibility— Authorized users should be held responsible for malicious activity performed on their accounts. This prevents credential sharing, simultaneous logins, and unauthorized access to an IHE’s network.

The cyber threat landscape is forever changing, but IHE who continually evaluate their network security measures can deter threats and decrease vulnerabilities long-term. Investing in advanced prevention software, holding users accountable for their actions, and tightening security controls will go a long way in protecting an IHE from internal and external malicious threats.