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Need of Network Monitoring in Higher Education

  • 5 min read

A recent data breach at a University

In October 2021, the Denver Post reported a data breach at a Colorado university that had potentially exposed the personal details of 30,000 current and former students.


The University of Colorado Boulder revealed that the attackers exploited the vulnerability in third-party service Atlassian which is a software program used by the institution’s Office of Information Technology to share resources and documents.


The data breach resulted in illegal access of students’ personally identifiable information that included names, student ID numbers, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and genders.


Despite the growing awareness around the risks of data breaches, the number of cyberattacks is increasing faster in Higher Education. There were 455 cyber security incidents in the educational sector last year alone. The latest cybersecurity survey confirms that universities cite ransomware as the top threat this year.
 

Network monitoring & security challenges


The network is at the center stage in today’s education sector. The shift to remote and online learning, virtually connected users, IoT, cloud, etc. has added a huge responsibility for the IT department of the educational institution. Several universities have unsecured Wi-fi connections, not adequately trained IT staff and lack of budget to update the IT infrastructure. Distributed networks supporting to accelerate digital transformation provides bad actors with increased options to maliciously access IT systems that are less protected and more vulnerable.


Besides, data theft and financial gain, espionage is another main reason why educational institutions are a target for cyberattacks. This means the need for additional security and compliance. Increasingly, more classes are being held online which means that the Network Operations team are under increased pressure to reduce network downtime. Lack of comprehensive network visibility can lead to significant network outages, difficulty in troubleshooting, and subsequent stress.


It’s no secret that an educational institution holds a large amount of student data and intellectual property which makes it an appealing target for cyberattacks. Schools and universities are rightly concerned for a students’ physical and mental well-being and part of that is digital safety by keeping students’ personal safe.

One research report ranked education sectors last in cyber security preparedness out of 17 major industries (Source: https://purplesec.us/resources/cyber-security-statistics/).
 

The impact of these challenges


Over the years, the cyber security incidents within educational institutions have included unauthorized breaches and hacks which made personal data illegally exposed; ransomware attacks, phishing attacks and DDoS (denial-of-service) attacks.
One of the major impacts of insufficient network monitoring and security has been a financial loss to some universities. Several years ago, the University of Calgary had to pay $20K to cybercriminals and malware attacks which had caused mass disruption.

Financial damages are one side of the story, but equally damaging is the bad publicity caused by the incidence, forensic investigation of the event, cleaning up and enforcing the infrastructure for future, all done in a hurry. The worst possible impact is to lose students’ information for cybercriminals to be used for future attacks, or other criminal acts.


In cases where a data breach has happened, the impact is even more severe because the data carries information about the students.
 

Solutions from Cubro

In one of our previous blogs, we explained how investing in network visibility and network monitoring is insurance for your network. Like any public or private enterprise, educational institutions depend on their networks to be able to function and need to safeguard the interests of their stakeholders. Without comprehensive strategies for identifying and mitigating potential causes of data breaches or other vulnerabilities, the institution can end up with not just monetary loss but also serious damage to its reputation.

A comprehensive network visibility platform offers network monitoring and security tools’ improved capabilities for detecting and remediating any security threats before they cause significant damage.  Visibility solutions improve the effectiveness of network monitoring and security appliances such as Firewalls, Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems, and Threat Hunting Platforms that act as virtual security guards across the network. This video describes the importance of good network security and the necessity of aligning security with business needs.

Since educational institutions do not always have extensive budgets for network operations, Cubro’s network monitoring software – Custos – can offer 24/7 network performance and security monitoring at an affordable price.

Custos can improve network security posture by enhancing the capability of existing security tools by acting as a network sensor to deliver network intelligence to them, as well as carrying out its own network security monitoring functions.


Some of the capabilities of Custos include:

  • Identify connected devices in the network
  • Identify, alert and triage network security threats
  • Detect suspicious traffic flows
  • Identify connectivity issues
  • Identify and log network stability issues

Benefits of network visibility and Custos 

  • Increased network performance and availability
  • Increased security posture
  • Faster network troubleshooting
  • Reduction of risk of monetary loss and reputation damage