Universities seen as a lucrative target by hackers
HALOCK Security Labs in 2013 found that there are several information security vulnerabilities at colleges and universities along with numerous challenges that infest these institutions across the United States.
In 2014 alone, hackers have been successful in gaining access to over 740,000 student and alumni personal information records, including social security numbers, combined. The breaches are said to have occurred at University of Maryland on February 19, 2014, Indiana University on February 26, 2014 and North Dakota University on March 6, 2014.
Investigations found that 25% of 162 universities sampled were exposing student and parent financial data at risk by using unsafe unencrypted email practices. This data included W-2’s and tax information transmitted to financial aid offices.
Hackers continue to target universities because not only maintain a wealth of student and parent financial data, but they are also centers for cutting edge research and intellectual property.
The recent breaches highlight the reason why universities need to take security seriously and extend their safeguards beyond unsecure email. While HALOCK’s investigation highlighted a certain type of security lapse, the recent breaches show there is dire need for universities to consider security comprehensively.
Universities are overwhelmed by a number of issues which are:
Typical university cultures promote open access to information
Transient and inexperienced student workers
Limited security and compliance budgets
Student hackers have ample time to target the university that is teaching them hacking skills
Information technology changes are often limited to seasonal university breaks
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