ISC West Live 2017
How Colleges and Universities Defend Against Cyber Threats

How Colleges and Universities Defend Against Cyber Threats

Colleges and universities store a variety of information and data that is very pleasing to hackers, making these institutions a main target. This has prompted places of higher learning to devise effective ways to deal with information security threats by taking into consideration the motivation of hackers and then developing action plans and strategies based on each motivation to thwart social engineering scammers. This has produced a number of ways to defend against cyberattacks.

Some of the more intriguing motivations for hacking a college or university are financial gain (credit card information is stored in a variety of places: registrar to pay for tuition, the campus bookstore’s POS, etc.) and access to secure data and research information. Based on these motivations, one strategy is to analyze tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of cybercriminals to better understand:

  • Who is targeting;
  • What the criminals want; and
  • Methods the criminals will likely use to gain unauthorized access.

Based on the answers to the TTPs, an effective plan of action can be developed. Here are some ways in which colleges and universities defend themselves against breaches:

Create a culture of openness: The Higher Education Information Security Council encourages colleges and universities to adopt this principle. It allows for open and honest collaboration with other organizations about what is and is not working.

Two-factor authentication (2FA): By adding an extra step to an account log in, an extra layer of protection is added to campus accounts and services. The first step is typically a username and password combination followed by something the user knows, like a PIN; something the user has, like a card or phone; or something the user is, like a fingerprint.

Knowledge-based authentication (KBA): This authentication scheme asks the user to answer at least one “secret” question that the user has previously added usually during account creation. This is less intrusive and appropriate to secure most types of information.

Incident response plans: As soon as a breach occurs, people want answers. It is in the best interest of educational facilities to have an established plan that handles the situation in a way that limits damage and reduces recovery time and costs. The plan should include a policy that defines what exactly constitutes an incident and a step-by-step process to remedy the situation.

Conferences: These events are great places to share knowledge and best practices among other like-minded professionals. Typically, there are expert speakers who speak about a variety of topics to help foster relationships for colleges and universities to defend themselves against threats.

About the Author

Ginger Hill is Group Social Media Manager.

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