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Hacking Academia: Universities are Prime Targets for Cyber Crime

Many good students have had their run-ins with prying eyes. A glance over the shoulder during a test isn’t a rare event, even at the college level. Academic dishonesty and plagiarism are always concerns for universities, but now there’s another kind of academic dishonesty running rampant.

Cybercriminals are targeting the networks of higher education institutions as a source of valuable data. And these thefts are creating a severe financial burden for schools.

Black-hat hackers aren’t after test answer keys or pre-written term papers. So it seems unlikely that they would set their sights on a college campus. However, there are a number of factors that place universities at a higher level of risk for data breach than financial institutions or retail companies.

In a report from NBR, Stephen Boyer of BitSight technologies points out that college databases contain a wealth of information that can command a high price on the black market. In addition to personal information about students, hackers can find volumes of credit card records from sporting events, tuition offices and college bookstores. And some might are even looking for original research data: a resource that’s unique to academic institutions.

Unfortunately, even though they present a virtual goldmine for cyber-fraudsters, these institutions are often lacking in the area of cyber defense. In fact, according to the latest BitSight Insights report, less than 50% of schools maintain processes for risk assessment or remediation. With open network configurations and tens of thousands of connected devices, these schools offer multiple points of entry.  And student populations have proven to be the perfect, unsuspecting target for phishing attacks.

With costs of breaches approaching $259 per stolen record, according to the Ponemon Institute, it is simply too expensive for universities not to take action. Fortunately, there are affordable cyber security solutions that can help schools make immediate and substantial improvements in their security positions.

Managed security services can provide continuous monitoring and cyber security support for colleges facing everything from advanced persistent threats to targeted malware attacks. Vulnerability scans can help stop a breach before it happens. And boosting physical security efforts can keep a school’s data from walking out the front door.

Lunarline helps organizations of all sizes, including universities, implement sustainable cyber security practices and respond to data breaches. Through the Lunarline School of Cyber Security also offers on-site training to increase security awareness among employees and students.

For more information on these services and the many other security solutions, visit us at lunarline.com.

We may not be able to catch all the plagiarists and test copiers, but a much more threatening cheater at bay.

About Spence Witten

Spence has somehow survived ten years at start-ups and small businesses without suffering a (major) nervous breakdown. As Lunarline's Director of Federal Sales, Spence actually loves working on proposals. If there were any doubt, this is proof that he is in fact certifiably insane. While his title says "Sales" Lunarline doesn't let him off that easy. We make him do real work, too. Luckily he's a recognized subject matter expert in security policy and loves helping clients navigate their way around tricky security compliance standards. He's also been known to lead a software development initiative or two, though that pretty much always ends poorly for everyone involved. He can be reached at spence.witten@lunarline.com.