Making BYOD safe for universities

Matt Green, Client Director for Education, Insight UK, talks the BYOD initiative, and how to ensure university-wide security

With a recent survey finding that almost two thirds (62%) of the global working population are taking advantage of flexible working practices, initiatives such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are helping to encourage and foster this preferred way of working. As this trend continues to see a monumental growth, it’s not just businesses that are taking note.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of universities take to refurbishing their networks in a bid to offer staff and students more network flexibility and capabilities.

However, allowing our own smartphones, tablets and laptops to be our faithful companions, we open up gateways to sensitive personal and confidential information. From email accounts to banking profiles – when it comes to our personal devices, we’re quick to use them to sign in to everything leaving us exposed if the devices aren’t secured.

More often than not, these devices have limited – if any – protection. With a university hosting, on average, between 15-18,000 students on a network, the risk of connecting an infected device is greatly heightened.

As the next generation of business owners take shape, it’s never been more important for universities to invest time into ensuring students are taking the right precautions when using their own devices.

As BYOD at work or university increasingly becomes the norm, here are three tips universities should be thinking about when implementing BYOD initiatives.

1.     Making protection consistent

With so many people bringing new devices onto the network, ensuring everyone has the same level of protection is crucial. So how can university administrations do this? Well for one they must proactively ensure all members of the network are using up-to-date apps and platforms, and if possible, provide appropriate software.

Already a number of universities are providing advice and guidelines on what specifications devices should follow before granting access to the network. As new patches are released, universities should continue to follow up to ensure all users periodically update the systems, even when already using the correct software.

2.     Educating students and teachers on the impact of their actions online

It was earlier in the year that it was announced school children in England will be offered lesson in cyber-security, with an aim of finding the experts of the future to defend the UK against attacks. Whilst it’s crucial that we train the future generation in cutting-edge cyber-security skills – especially in light of a looming skills gap – cyber-attacks have the potential to impact every single person.

That’s why there should be training on the impact our actions have online. As the next generation of business owners take shape, it’s never been more important for universities to invest time into ensuring students are taking the right precautions when using their own devices. With viruses and malware just a click away, this couldn’t be more vital.

3.     Data spring cleaning

In any organisation, people move on and leave. As such, it’s vital that HR personnel take it on as their responsibility to monitor and manage the user database to ensure old data is properly stripped from devices of anyone that has left the university.

With the number of organisations affected set to grow, it’s no secret that the next major security breach is just around the corner. As such there have been many conversations around the necessity for UK organisations – both private and public – to keep up with the pace at which technology is moving, and to invest in safeguarding the wealth of data in their possession. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into full effect next year, allowing employees to use their own devices to access company data raises data protection issues that businesses must address. Because education institutions like universities are equally at risk, it’s vital that they take the same steps to foster a safe and secure BYOD environment.

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