- Ransomware disrupts school operations and the community as a whole—prioritizing data protection is paramount
- Having consistent, real-time access to data is critical for colleges and universities
- See related article: Privacy, infrastructure, and innovation: Keys to success in higher ed
With the start of a new school year comes a surge of data at higher education institutions. Between fall 2021 and fall 2031, nationwide undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase by nine percent and institutions will have to keep up with the proliferation of data that comes with the increase of students. Yet a spike in data makes institutions a prime target for attacks, and attacks targeting education are increasing.
According to a 2023 study, 79 percent of colleges surveyed experienced a ransomware attack, up from 64 percent in 2022. In addition, a recent large-scale breach from data firm MOVEit impacted many colleges and universities across the country and over four million individuals had sensitive information stolen.
A ransomware attack can not only disrupt school operations, but can also impact the community – students, their families, teachers, and administrators. Sensitive personal information including student grades, medical records, and financial information of students and employees can be leaked, and institutions must work to minimize the risk of an attack.
To prioritize the protection of sensitive personal information, institutions must invest in customized data protection systems that will fit the institutions’ personal needs and goals.
Emphasizing the importance of data
Educational institutions face many risks when it comes to ransomware, including:
- Exposure and loss of student and personnel data
- Disruption of remote learning and operations
- Inability to access information
- Impact on research
- Reputation damage
- Financial loss
- Productivity loss
As cybercriminals continue to mature in their technical prowess, higher education institutions need the ability to control uncertainty to truly mitigate the risk and impact of a ransomware incident. Bad actors are becoming more sophisticated–and institutions must be prepared for the inevitable attack. Historically, secure backup systems alone were sufficient, but as attacks evolve, institutions must also prioritize fast recovery systems. However, these cannot come at the cost of the agility needed to deliver on the student experience.
To achieve maximum data protection, institutions should invest in systems that encompass multiple platforms and technologies, efficiently deliver critical data and applications with blazing fast restores, and let institutions derive real value from data. Legacy storage systems and backup applications cannot meet the needs of institutions. IT leaders need modern data protection systems that include simplified automation and rapid recovery, while operating on a cloud-ready platform that can flex and change as the institutions’ needs grow and change.
Each institution has different needs, but all institutions should implement systems that can help recover data at scale and as quickly as possible.
Investing in the best data protection systems
Institutions must invest in the most secure data platforms – those that prioritize backup and recovery to guard against potential threats, minimize downtime, and deliver an optimal student experience. Data protection is a vital component of the contemporary data center that encompasses multiple platforms and technologies, efficiently provides critical data and applications with blazing-fast restores, and enables institutions to continue to derive real value from data. It also plays a crucial role in risk mitigation, continuity of teaching and learning, protecting institutional reputation, and student satisfaction.
Institutions should ensure high-quality defenses at all points, prepare for the worst, and make rapid backup and restore a priority. Maintaining operations requires a modern data platform that delivers the cost-efficiency and flexibility higher education needs as IT requirements grow amid tight budgets.
Driving meaningful data protection
Higher education institutions need simple, cost-effective solutions without disruption or downtime. Having consistent, real-time access to data is critical for colleges and universities, as no institution is immune to ransomware. It’s essential that they can recover data at scale, as quickly as possible, when systems go down.
The demand to achieve premium data protection is only becoming more critical amid the uptick in malicious cyberattacks. Agencies should invest in a data storage infrastructure with built-in resilience, empowering institutions with the peace of mind that comes with protection and the flexibility, efficiency, and continuous innovation to keep meeting their missions.
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