Universities at risk: More on campus gadgets means more attacks

November 6, 2018 11:35 am

Infoblox Inc., a prominent company in Secure Cloud-Managed Network Services, announced the results of its global survey on the state of network security at higher education institutions. Results reveal that 81% of IT professionals state securing campus networks has become more challenging in the last two years.

The report titled “Defending Networks at Higher Learning Institutions – Heroes Needed” found that networks at higher education institutions are incredibly complex, which can make them more vulnerable to attack.

For example, the average student brings four or more devices with them on campus with 89% of IT professionals reporting an increase in the number of connected devices on campus networks. IT professionals are also challenged with a high volume of turnover in students each year when one quarter or more of their users change.

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 Uncontrollable Network – Number of Devices on the Rise

While students two years ago mainly brought laptops and smartphones with them to college, in the age of the Internet of Things, students are now using tablets (61%), smart watches (27%) and gaming consoles (25%) on campus, dramatically increasing the number of devices connecting to the campus network.

In addition to students bringing more devices with them to school, 60% of faculty, students and IT professionals use four or more devices on the campus which drives up activity on the network.

The Enemy Within – Insider Threats on Campus a Major Cause for Concern

In addition to the high number of devices making managing higher education networks difficult, internal threats are a factor with 48% of IT administrators believing the greatest security risks come from within the campus. For example, 54% of IT administrators say at least 25% of student’s devices come onto campus already infected with malware. Also, one in three students has reported knowing of fellow classmates that have attempted malicious acts on the school’s network.

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Poor Network Practices and Outdated Security Measures to Blame

However, students are not the only ones at fault for poor network practices. In the last two years, 60% of faculty and staff have not made any network security changes, and 57% use out-of-date security measures, such as updating passwords as a security precaution.

Lack of education on security best-practices is one of the major contributions to student and faculty poor security hygiene. 39% of IT administrators reveal that their users not being educated on security risks is one of their biggest challenges to keeping the network secure.

Beyond user error though, outdated network technology poses another challenge.

71% percent of students and faculty revealed that the school networks suffer performance issues at least once a month. Additionally, only 52% of current network management solutions have DNS provisioning capabilities and can provide remote network access control.

“As higher education institutions embrace digital transformation and users become more device reliant, their networks have become more complex and difficult to manage,” said Infoblox CTO of Field Engineering, Victor Danevich. “With this complexity, networks become more volatile and vulnerable to cyber attack if proper network security measures are not in place.”

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Help is on the Way

Higher education institutions need to gain full visibility into all connected devices to prevent unwanted network threats. Intelligent DNS security solutions can help detect vulnerabilities by identifying unusual and potentially malicious network activity and provide deeper control at the infrastructure level.  Antivirus solutions are not enough, colleges and universities need network monitoring solutions that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify common malicious actors and prevent future attacks.

Additionally, implementing Single Sign-On with two-factor authentication for all systems accessed by students can address the password challenges by enforcing password changes, validating identity, and providing the ability to quickly disable accounts when issues arise.

“In the Middle East, higher learning institution IT professionals are facing challenges that their peers in business enterprise rarely face and use inadequate tools in an attempt to protect their users and their schools. In an era where all entities must protect personal user data and intellectual property, learning institutions appear underprepared and to be taking unnecessary risks. They have some of the most challenging network scenarios in the world and need world-class tools to help them meet the mounting threats,” concludes Ashraf Sheet, Regional Director, Middle East & Africa at Infoblox.

Infoblox has been able to provide the network infrastructure higher education institutions need to be successful.

The full survey report is available at https://www.infoblox.com/resources/reports/report-infoblox-higher-education-survey

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AMEinfo Staff
By AMEinfo Staff
AMEinfo staff members report business news and views from across the Middle East and North Africa region, and analyse global events impacting the region today.