How can I protect my institution's data?

How can I protect my institution's data?

By Brian Knotts on Friday, May 30, 2014

Well, it’s very difficult. Why? Because it’s everywhere. Data is becoming an all-powerful, all-encompassing, and increasingly more unrefined asset to protect. Colleges and universities literally have “warehouses” of digital property, including personal student information (past, present, and prospective) and intellectual property, such as critical research on new drugs or electronics. For our enemies, there’s opportunity.

And one distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) can mean more than just a network going offline.  Esteemed security specialist Larry Ponemon calculated that institutional security breaches—higher education, financial, or otherwise—cost approximately $136 per record in 2013. The Chronicle of Higher Education shows a security breach can have a lasting effect.

How to save your data

Institutions are faced with thin IT budgets and limited personnel with the experience to protect what’s at stake.

Institutions can solve those challenges and protect data by:

  • Developing a layered information security policy or “Defense in Depth”
  • Establishing internal rules on accessing information
  • Partnering with specialized vendors

Developing a layered approach is a means to safeguard your data and isolate vulnerabilities. Think of your information system as a castle. There are various layers of security, including moats, parapets, guards and cannons.  Protecting and encrypting data at multiple levels will make it more efficient for your CIO to detect an intrusion, decipher what information has been accessed, and take a more strategic approach toward counter measures.

Some threats can come from the inside so establish access rules on when, where and how data can be accessed.  You can also configure your system’s firewall to allow only certain IP addresses access to certain content.

Partnering with an expert vendor is critical. Across the country, companies are spending just 2 percent on security technology – woefully low. A security breach can have immediate financial impact, but the longer term issue is around reputation. Leave no stone unturned. By working with a certified partner that knows your student administrative systems, even in the event of an attack, your reputation improves because you’ve done everything you can.

When it comes to your institution’s security, the best offense is a good defense. Proactively taking measures to protect your institution’s data today can be instrumental in combating the attacks of tomorrow.

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