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How to Prioritize Cyber Safety on a Community College Campus

Bryan Reed Nov. 20, 2018

College campuses are a hotbed of cyber activity. With students, visitors, and staff using your computers and technology, and potentially thousands of users connected to your servers via the internet, cyber safety must be a top priority for your IT staff.

-Alphanumeric has a lot of experience working in the education industry, and that includes helping community colleges ramp up their cyber safety for both staff and students. Here’s what you need to know to ensure cyber safety on your campus.

Understand the Most Likely Threats

The first thing you must do is understand the threats that are most likely to affect your servers, systems, and users. Here are some of the most common cybersecurity threats.

  1. Ransomware – An attack that holds your data hostage, requiring you to pay a ransom to get it back.
  2. Attacks on the Internet of Things – Any device that’s connected to the web is a potential point of entry for hackers and cybercriminals, including printers, scanners, and medical equipment.
  3. Unauthorized Applications – Both employees and students may connect to your server using apps that have security vulnerabilities.
  4. User Carelessness – Any user may be intentionally or unintentionally careless about accessing your systems. Examples include sharing passwords or using the same passwords for multiple purposes.
  5. Cloud Computing – While in many cases cloud computing and storage is a positive thing for cyber safety, in some cases it may leave you vulnerable to intrusions.

In addition to knowing what the most common cyber safety issues are, you should also make note of any specific problems you’ve had on campus in the past.

Follow Federal Data Guidelines

As of the end of 2017, college campuses must comply with a new set of federal guidelines for protecting their data. The requirements come from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171, which was designed to protect “controlled unclassified information.”

The guidelines were issued because the Department of Education recognized that many institutes of higher learning had failed to comply with the recommendations of the NIST publication.

Some of the specific challenges involve getting colleges and universities to rethink their open policies about information and data sharing. It goes against the grain for schools not to share information freely – and yet, it’s necessary to make changes to adapt to the changing cybersecurity landscape.

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Cybersecurity Measures to Implement Now

If you want to prioritize cyber safety, here are some measures that you should implement now to maximize security and minimize the risks to your data as well as to students’ and employees’ personal information.

  1. Update your general cybersecurity measures. That means ensuring your virus and malware protection is state-of-the-art and all machines and devices are protected and updated regularly.
  2. Use two-factor authentication to protect your systems. 2FA requires both a password and a biometric check (usually a fingerprint) to log into a system.
  3. Write and implement a detailed BYOA (bring your own application) policy to minimize the chances someone will install an app that could compromise your security.
  4. Protect your devices that connect to the Internet of Things with all appropriate measures.
  5. Create a campus policy for cyber safety and distribute it to all students and employees. You should include standards for passwords, BYOA (as mentioned above), social media, and anything else that might impact people on campus.
  6. Consider cybersecurity training for anybody who accesses your servers and systems.

At Alphanumeric, we find that cybersecurity training is the key to compliance. Even well-meaning students and employees can engage in risky behavior if they’re not properly trained.

Prioritizing cyber safety on your community college campus is the best way to minimize your risks and protect your employees, students, and data.

To learn how Alphanumeric can help you fine-tune your cybersecurity, please click here now.

Bryan Reed

Bryan Reed is the Marketing and Communications Director at Alphanumeric.

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