Cloud app migration, multi-layered security, some top initiatives for IT departments going into the fall semester.

IT-trends-fall“My job is to find stuff that’s transformative, and these days that means the cloud,” said Bob Carozzoni, lead enterprise cloud strategist at Cornell University, during Amazon Web Services (AWS) recent conference.

From cloud migration to dealing with increased cyberattacks, never before have the innovate capabilities of the campus IT department been as mission-critical to colleges and universities under drastic transformation.

And though many basic needs and services of the campus body still require the attention of IT (such as campus WiFi, MOOC creation and distribution, and BYOD implementation strategy), some of the most renowned, innovative university IT departments are future-proofing campus processes through large-scale transformative initiatives.

Based on recent IT conferences (Internet2, AWS), as well as in-depth interviews with campus IT leaders, eCampus News lists five major trends for innovative IT departments going into the fall semester.

Did some of your initiatives or trends not make the list? Be sure to give your suggestions in the comment section below.

[Listed in no particular order]

1. Providing multi-layered security: From Penn State’s Chinese cyberattack, to the hack attack on the University of Maryland, colleges and universities nationwide should assume that they too are in the hackers’ crosshairs. “It’s very rare that a group is going to target one particular institution,” said Ken Westin, senior security analyst at Tripwire, an Oregon-based cybersecurity company. “Usually, they will target an entire industry or a network looking for intellectual property. If they’re going after Engineering at Penn State, odds are it’s part of a larger campaign targeting similar departments and groups in higher education.” Indeed, Westin believes that the FBI is already working with other institutions that have been breached.

Antivirus and antimalware protection are commonplace, but still offer only a base level of protection, security experts agree. Network monitoring is increasingly important to catch threats that can slip past antivirus and antimalware programs.

Santa Clara (Calif.) University, for example, employs algorithms to analyze network traffic and to send alerts to security staff about suspicious activity, says Robert Henry, the university’s chief information security officer. Network traffic analysis helps identify spikes in network use and other activity outside of the norm.

The variety and number of attacks are increasing, says Neal Moss, system network analyst for BYU-Hawaii. Rather than random attacks, hackers are targeting specific parts, specific servers, etc. Higher education financial and human resources departments are top targets because of the depth of the personal information that they contain. So colleges and universities are using multiple firewalls in order to separate serves from one another and limiting the applications that users can access.

“They key for us is using zero trust,” Moss says. “We treat everyone as bad guys trying to get at my stuff. We only allow specific applications to communicate with users.” The applications automatically reject any modifications a user attempts to make.

Westin also encourages institutions to review the security frameworks available from organizations such the Center for Internet Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “That’s a really good place for IT organizations to start,” he added. “They offer an executive brief that covers some of the top things they should focus on in a security program.”

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