cybersecurity network

The top 5 cyber threats and how to protect your university

With the vast amounts of private data that they gather, store, and analyze, Higher Ed institutions are a prime target for cyber attacks.

Higher Ed IT security professionals have their hands full contending with the various cyber threats coming their way, such as hackers using malware to compromise and take over crucial systems. With the vast amounts of private data that they gather, store, and analyze, Higher Ed institutions are a prime target for these kinds of attacks.

Here are the top 5 cyber threats now jeopardizing higher education and what steps you can take to protect your university today:

1. Unsecured Wifi

Students and faculty will connect to the Internet via Wifi, sometimes without caring whether their connection is protected. This is particularly an issue when members of the public have access to the network, which is common in higher education environments.

As unwitting users provide their login credentials, criminals eavesdropping on these unsecured Wifi networks capture their passwords, which can then be used to take over their device.

If users rely on the same password for different accounts, criminals have even more access points to illegally log in. A report from Educause recommends that employees and students should receive proper training in avoiding dubious Wifi connections. They should also have access to two-factor identification as well as virtual private networks to protect their credentials from intruders.

2. Networked Printers

A printer may seem like a simple, innocuous device, but they can often be a weak link in your institution’s network. The convenience of networking printers is offset by the danger they pose when deployed with their default settings still intact.

To combat this, your IT team should emphasize the use of stronger passwords in any networked equipment. Printers with wireless capability typically store data. Instruct your users to set their printers to automatically erase this data after printing. If they can justify leaving the information in memory, have them encrypt the data to prevent hackers from stealing it. When networked printers are set up in areas open to a lot of foot traffic, consider requiring users to enter a PIN before using them. Do not let their desire to freely share data with one another compromise these networked devices.

(Next page: 3 more cyber threats and how to prevent them)

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