Higher education institutions work constantly to build smarter campuses. These advances tend to focus on digital transformation and overall more accessible, user-friendly resources to enable the academic experience from any device, anywhere. Colleges strive to be a big, fun, stimulating, shared macrocosm: the place to learn together and share knowledge and unique experiences.
From an operational perspective, delivering this experience brings important security challenges that when bypassed, can take a toll on public trust and student experience. We already live in a culture of sharing thanks to the unlimited avenues that the Internet provides. But in the higher ed world, this is a particularly tricky intersection.
Is trust at stake?
Trust can be interpreted from many different angles in the education industry. The college admissions scandal aside, events like digital transformation and emerging data protection regulations are rapidly giving the area of education security more power to influence higher ed’s operations and business continuity.
It shouldn’t be surprising that universities and colleges are main targets for cyber attacks. They have both physical and virtual infrastructures, manage large populations of students, faculty, and staff, and they have an inevitable need to produce, collect, and store (a lot of) information. Bottom line: perfect ground for hackers to lurk and find vulnerabilities to exploit.
Beyond detecting and responding to malware infections and data breaches, what are other major consequences that colleges can suffer if they lack the right security structure in place? Failure to protect users, application, and networks could not only bring down an entire academic IT infrastructure, but it could also cause significant financial loss, and even greater damage when it comes to reliability in educational institutions.
With the growing adoption of technology, the goal of reducing BYOD (bring your own device) is becoming more challenging by the day and providing secure access to academic platforms cannot be compromised, even if it means enabling more user-owned devices.
Secure student experience: make it seamless with MFA
Technological advances in user mobility are organically calling for a shift in academic culture and learning models. Throw 2020 into the mix and you suddenly have IT managers at universities rushing to broaden digital capabilities to enable remote learning for an unexpectedly larger population that most likely needs to access data and applications regardless of device or location.
And all of this with the goal in mind of delivering an improved teaching and learning experience. An ‘Easy A’, right? Of all the security avenues to explore, such as VPN protection, DNS filtering, and endpoints security to kill more threats, one in particular should be a top priority when looking at trust and student experience on/off campus.
That would be multi-factor authentication (MFA). In addition to protecting user identity, MFA is also a powerful resource to protect applications. With the ongoing expansion of IoT – and COVID19, if I must remind us – access to remote applications has become central to keeping communities connected and business operational.
If chosen right, MFA can also be a cost-effective solution to comply with data privacy regulations and ethical use and management of education data. This is a powerful strategy for schools as trusted institutions but can also protect companies from financial loss due to data breaches.
Let’s not forget about the important promise to deliver a meaningful and relevant experience to students when interacting with information and their alma mater community. MFA is becoming more essential in many industries, but a reliable authentication process in higher education institutions is now considered a critical step to securely enabling users. Look for a simple, easy-to-deploy, easy-to-use service; convenient authentication factors like mobile tokens; single sign-on capability so you can protect Cloud applications like Blackboard, email accounts, and video conferencing.; and lastly, look for login protection compatible with macOS and Windows devices.
On and off campus security is a core factor that can make or break a college’s reputation and the ability to provide a seamless experience to their communities. Ransomware and credential-related attacks will continue to rise and although there is no definitive cure, IT managers in the education field need to reshape their roadmaps to ensure protected access for students, staff, and faculty.