I took a computer science minor when I was in college. Back then, the school computers were in a heavily secured section of one building, and we accessed them from teletype terminals and punch card readers (no, we did not use charcoal on slates by the fireplace in the log cabin!). There was no reason to worry about the security of our computer work, other than needing to stay on the good side of the staff of the computer center so that they wouldn’t reshuffle our punch cards or “misplace” our printouts.
Fast forward more than a few years, when I was doing graduate work at a public university. I took 30 credits online, using recordings of on-campus classes, regular chat sessions with my instructors and fellow students, and accessing research information, including public and professionals-only data sources, through the school’s online library system and its global connections. I didn’t pay too much attention to the security of my online activities; internet connectivity made them possible, but there weren’t nearly the number of bad actors out on the net that there are today.
Today my son is in college, and it’s natural for him to select a mix of online and in-person classes, even though his school is a short drive away. He relies on his school’s IT infrastructure for classwork, exams, registration, and research, and can access these functions as well as find out anything about what is available on the internet–from his laptop or smartphone. And every one of those transactions takes place in a space that is just seething with cyber muggers, burglars, and every variety of malicious actor you can imagine.
Information is the stock in trade of colleges and universities. Information enables students to pursue their degrees, faculty to teach and research, and staff to keep these institutions running. Much of the information has real value in the cyber netherworld, whether it’s personally identifiable information of students, proprietary research conducted with other schools and industry partners, or financial transactions.
Keeping this information secure is a challenge. In a recent Center for Digital Education survey of higher education IT professionals, 72 percent listed data breaches among their greatest current network security concerns. Their top security concerns for the year ahead? Spam, phishing, and malware. What’s standing in the way of better network security? More than four out of five pointed to budget constraints.
Keeping campus networks secure in the face of ever-increasing growth of data, devices used to access that data, and cyber threats requires more effective and more cost-effective security. To learn more about what’s keeping campus IT leaders up at night, and what they’re doing about it, view our on-demand webcast, Network Security in Education: The changing landscape of campus data security.