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June 30, 2016

Information Security for Universities: What’s Your Plan?

Cyber security threats and hacking have been on the rise, stealing sensitive information from all types of corporations. Educational facilities are a tempting target because they have access to a vast amount of their students’ personal data as well as intellectual property and confidential research. Colleges have files containing the addresses, test scores, family income levels and even the health records of their students.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 was enacted to keep the records of college students confidential. However, the Act has failed to keep up with technology. Because of this, some legislators are working to enhance security by passing the Student Data Privacy Protection Act. This new law will require the Department of Education to step in and establish specific cyber security rules.

Schools Need a Plan

To increase cyber safety, security experts advise schools to purge sensitive data that they no longer need on the books. For instance, some colleges keep the social security records and birth dates of past students and employees. If schools store data in physical files, university officials can hire a professional paper shredding company to eliminate it thoroughly and securely. Keeping sensitive data in one system instead of allowing it to be scattered across different departments and facilities will make it easier for schools to protect this kind of information. Schools often have open networks for personnel and students, but to increase protection, college officials should consider rearranging how their facility’s business systems are used. For instance, schools can modify the way that they process tuition or employee payroll. Another security measure involves training students and personnel to practice safe Internet browsing behaviors. Schools should also implement system audits and maintain their infrastructure.

Not Even Harvard is Safe

Harvard University confirmed that up to eight of its schools and several administrative offices suffered a recent security breach. The school did not verify the specific information that hackers gained access to during the violation, but officials did state that login information was possibly compromised along with more than 20,000 records. Last year, college breaches compromised more than one million records. A recent analysis determined that the education sector came in last during a security protection assessment. The analysis compared the security protocols that the healthcare, utility, retail, finance and education industries use.

Stephen Boyer, a chief technology officer for a well-known security ratings company, said, “Higher education has been the lowest-performing sector as long as we have been measuring it.” Rajiv Motwani, a security research director, also commented on cyber safety involving colleges. He said, “The education sector, while we do hear of breaches here and there, is only now becoming the focus.” The breaches involving higher education have failed to make headlines because the violations are occurring at a lower level than they are against other kinds of companies. However, protecting records is more challenging for educational facilities since colleges have tighter security budgets than organizations in other industries. Limited finances combined with the considerable amount of sensitive data in the hands of schools make these facilities enticing to hackers. Universities face another challenge in the security area, which is their culture. In academia, the give-and-take of ideas is sacred. Because of this, educational facilities are often less mindful of security than they should be.

Information Security for Universities

Today, higher education facilities are facing major information security and cybersecurity challenges. Since many schools have limited security budgets, officials must find affordable and clever ways to protect their students and faculty members. When colleges have sensitive information stored physically, a cost-effective security option is to hire a paper shredding company like PROSHRED Miami. PROSHRED Miami also offershard drive destruction services so you can properly dispose of sensitive electronic files securely. For more information or a free quote, contact us today.

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