Security in higher education: Trust, student experience, and multi-factor authentication

Universities are major targets for cyber attacks – here’s why educational institutions should consider multi-factor authentication

Higher education institutions work constantly to build smarter campuses. These advances tend to focus on digital transformation and the delivery of more accessible, user-friendly resources to enable the academic experience from any device, anywhere.

Universities strive to be a stimulating, shared macrocosm: the place to learn together and share knowledge and unique experiences.

From an operational perspective, delivering this experience brings important security challenges that, when bypassed, can take a toll on public trust and student experience. We already live in a culture of sharing thanks to the unlimited avenues that the internet provides. But in the higher education world, this is a particularly tricky intersection.

Is trust at stake?

Trust can be interpreted from many different angles in the education industry. Digital transformation and emerging data protection regulations are rapidly giving the area of education security more power to influence operations and business continuity.

It shouldn’t be surprising that universities and colleges are major targets for cyber attacks. They have both physical and virtual infrastructures, manage large populations of students, faculty, and staff, and they have an inevitable need to produce, collect, and store information. The bottom line is this is the perfect ground for hackers to lurk and find vulnerabilities to exploit.

Beyond detecting and responding to malware infections and data breaches, what are the other major consequences that colleges can suffer if they lack the right security structure in place?

Failure to protect users, applications, and networks could not only bring down an entire academic IT infrastructure, but it could also cause significant financial loss, and even greater damage when it comes to reliability in educational institutions.

Secure student experience: make it seamless with Multi-Factor Authentication

Technological advances in user mobility are organically calling for a shift in academic culture and learning models. Throw 2020 into the mix and you suddenly have IT managers at universities rushing to broaden digital capabilities to enable remote learning for an unexpectedly larger population that most likely needs to access data and applications regardless of device or location.

And all of this with the goal in mind of delivering an improved teaching and learning experience. Of all the security avenues to explore, such as VPN protection, DNS filtering, and endpoint security to kill more threats, one in particular should be a top priority when looking at trust and student experience on/off campus.

That would be multi-factor authentication (MFA). In addition to protecting user identity, MFA is also a powerful resource to protect applications. With the ongoing expansion of IoT – and the lingering presence of Covid-19 – access to remote applications has become central to keeping communities connected and business operational.

If chosen correctly, MFA can also be a cost-effective solution to complying with data privacy regulations and ethical use and management of education data. This is a powerful strategy for schools as trusted institutions but can also protect companies from financial loss due to data breaches.

MFA is becoming more essential in many industries, but a reliable authentication process in higher education institutions is now considered a critical step to securely enabling users. Look for a simple, easy-to-deploy, easy-to-use service, convenient authentication factors like mobile tokens, single sign-on capability so you can protect Cloud applications, email accounts, and video conferencing. Lastly, look for login protection compatible with macOS and Windows devices.

Ransomware and credential-related attacks will continue to rise and, although there is no definitive cure, IT managers in the education field need to reshape their roadmaps to ensure protected access for students, staff, and faculty.

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