The proliferation of personal mobile devices and homegrown hackers on today’s campuses—not to mention the open, collaborative nature of college environments in general—make cybersecurity particularly challenging in higher education. It’s no wonder cybercriminals consider colleges and universities easy targets.
Once a breach in a university’s network occurs, the entire campus can be vulnerable. That’s why developing cybersecurity policies in colleges and universities is critical in today’s increased threat environment, and why everyone—administrators, faculty members and students alike—need to get involved.
As your higher education customers’ trusted advisor, you can help by offering them a checklist of do’s and don’ts to help them ensure a safer IT environment.
Safeguards everyone on campus should follow
- Keep mobile devices and laptops from falling prey to “roaming eyes.” When sharing workspaces or working in close proximity with others, make every effort to keep phone and computer screens close at hand. And be sure to set a password-protected lock screen and keep that password private.
- Devise complex passwords. Use at last eight characters, including upper and lowercase letters and symbols, and avoid names, birthdays, current street addresses, etc. Make campus passwords different from personal passwords and change all passwords periodically.
- Make sure any website you access that requires you to enter personal information has a URL that starts with https (the “s” means secure). Whenever possible, only use websites that require two-step or preferably multi-authentication (such as a token, smartcard or PIN).
- Never share sensitive personal information in an email or phone call. And never click a link or open an email from an unknown or suspicious sender—or access personal financial or health information through an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. A coffeehouse or pub off campus is no place to check your online bank statement.
- Back up important documents on a thumb drive or external hard drive and a secure cloud-based account.
- Keep up-to-date with all IT security precautions.
- Turn on auto updates for the operating systems on all your devices, antivirus software and apps. They provide an important line of defense against viruses, malware and other threats.
- Sync up mobile devices every week to make sure you have the latest updates.
- Use security software to scan USBs and other external devices—they can be infected with viruses and malware, too.
- Use social media with discretion. Don’t post sensitive or personal information that could leave you vulnerable later on. A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, don’t post. It’s also a good idea to enable privacy settings on all your social media accounts so you can restrict posts to friends and family—or approved followers.
No measures are foolproof
While there’s no surefire way to prevent cyberattacks altogether, the above precautions can certainly help decrease their likelihood. But security breaches will happen—they’re inevitable. To mitigate the harm they can do, higher education IT administrators need to implement back-end protection. Advanced security controls on the other end of the network will help minimize the access hackers can have to servers once they infiltrate the network. Colleges and universities should also implement internal processes to shorten the time it takes to identify and report an attack and implement counter measures. Your security expertise can certainly be a big help to them in that regard.