The EDUCAUSE annual conference brings together IT pros in the education arena to explore the technology, trends, and challenges impacting the education sector today. This year’s conference highlighted the importance of cybersecurity to higher ed organizations. With mass amounts of student data and connected devices, colleges and universities must be proactive with a cyber protocol to avoid potential threats.
“In today’s tech-centric world, higher education institutions are rapidly changing their digital environments,” said Brian Kelly, Cybersecurity Program Director, EDUCAUSE in a recent article. “With the boundless intake of data and information, the need for extended security and privacy measures has never been more important in colleges and universities.”
To learn more about the conference and how colleges and universities can navigate this challenging IT environment, we spoke with Jennifer Phillips, SLED Channel Manager with SolarWinds and Joanna Milarski, SLED Sales Manager with SolarWinds.
Cybersecurity was the main topic at the conference and for good reason. Last year, the education sector had the second highest number of data breaches, following behind the healthcare industry. “Campus IT environments are continuously adapting to develop new security and privacy measures, but both cloud solution providers and campus administrators are wasting precious time creating, responding to, and reviewing such assessments,” Kelly said.
For higher ed institutions to alleviate some of this security burden, those responsible for the IT infrastructure are looking to consolidate, Phillips explained. “In the past, campuses were managing their own infrastructure,” she said. “There was a lot of conversation on getting everything under the CIO,” to simplify both security and operations.
Currently, colleges and universities are dealing with siloed data and security patches from different applications and vendors. “There is a need for integration with the vendors that higher ed institutions are using,” Joanna explained. “One of the things that came up was monitoring products. They are looking for a system to use top to bottom that all integrate within itself.”
Integrating applications and solutions will cut down on security alerts potentially draining employees and resources. According to the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR), between 2005 and 2014 there were over 562 reported data breaches at 324 higher education institutions, representing over 15 million records. These reported breaches are a fraction of what IT professionals must investigate and analyze.
Higher education IT professionals are switching to vendors capable of providing different, more cost-effective services to reduce alert burden and enhance security. “Getting a better handle on products that schools are using and keeping it to a very small number of vendors helps them keep a finger on the security of those products,” Phillips said.
Partnering with a vendor offering an automated response system, continuous monitoring, and patch management can bolster a school’s cybersecurity. As a first step, IT pros must evaluate the products they’re currently using and make sure they offer the best cyber protection.
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