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Learning Center Experience
By Ellen Raineri, PhD
has increasingly been the target of numerous cyberattacks. In 2005, a security
breach affected about 32,000 student and staff records that were compromised as
hackers gained access to social security numbers, pictures, and names (Vijayan,
2005). In 2013, employees at Saint Louis University were lured into a phishing
email scam. Perpetrators gained access to 3,000 email accounts that accessed
personal information such as social security numbers and health information
(Saint Louis University, 2015).
In 2014, the University of Delaware was victim
to a cyberattack. Hackers obtained personal information from 72,000 employees
(University of Delaware, 2014). In 2015, a distributed denial-of-service attack
was launched at Rutgers University in which students and faculty were unable to
access the Sakai course management system (CBS NY, 2015). Another attack in
2015 targeted the engineering department at Penn State University. Usernames
and passwords were obtained by perpetrators from China (Lennon, 2015). These
are just a sample of security incidents that have occurred, so it is important
for academic institutions to be attentive to 10 key vulnerable areas and to
provide the proper mitigation.
1. Portable devices: Some institutions have a BYOD
(bring your own device) policy. Accordingly, faculty and staff may have brought
in their own tablets and smartphones. This poses a risk of eavesdropping
as well as theft with access to sensitive data. Employees should not leave
devices unattended while at work or home. When using the devices (speaking
or typing), employees should be sure that no one is close by to see or
hear sensitive information. Devices should have authentication to assist
with access control. Lastly, devices can use encryption for transmitting
information (Mathias, 2015).
2. Network: The vulnerable areas are DDoS attacks
and viruses. Institutions should have current antivirus software,
firewalls, IDSs, IPSs, and DMZs.
3. Emails: Email is vulnerable to phishing. Employees
should participate in training to identify suspicious emails. Employees should
be told not to click on unknown attachments and not to share confidential
information that is requested by email.
4. Passwords: Perpetrators can try to seize
passwords by brute force or dictionary attacks. Institutions should focus
on having strong passwords in terms of lengths, variety (i.e., letters,
numbers, symbols), and complex words; employees should be required to change
their passwords on a regular basis.
5. Public computers: Within the library, common
areas, and classroom, university computers are accessed by faculty, employees, and students. The websites they have viewed and the documents
they have downloaded can be accessed unless history and downloaded files are
cleared. Sensitive information such as financial documents, exams, and
more are at risk. Users should clear history if using public computers.
6. Community: Employees are at risk from those in the
community who might use the ploy of social engineering to gain access to
sensitive information. Training should be offered so employees learn how to
identify social engineering ploys. Employees should be told not to share
confidential information with strangers.
7. Internal employees: Last year, 666,000 internal
employees contributed to security breaches (Help Net Security, 2014). Institutions
should determine and enforce access control to information.
8. Computer resources: Employees may use company
resources (i.e., computers, emails, etc.) for malicious purposes such as
launching botnets or sending hate mail. Institutions should provide employees
with parameters regarding the use of computer resources for academic or
9. Trash: The vulnerability is that confidential
information may be accessed from discarded documents or hardware though
dumpster diving or retrieval of hard drives. Confidential documents should
be shredded, and hard drives should be destroyed.
10. Student data and systems (i.e., student systems
or course management systems): The vulnerability is a lack of access due
to a crisis such as a natural disaster or due to cyberattacks. Institutions
should make regular backups and store them at an alternative location.
Also, institutions should create and maintain disaster recovery plans.
Ellen Raineri is an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
CBS New York. (2015, March 30). Rutgers
university trying to restore computer systems after denial-of-service attack. Retrieved from
Help Net Security. (2014, February 19). US
businesses suffer 666,000 internal security breaches.
Retrieved from http://www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=16379
M. (2015, May 15). Penn State University cuts Internet after Chinese
cyberattack. Retrieved from
C. (2015). Minimizing BYOD security risks through policies and technology. Retrieved from
Saint Louis University. (2015). Important
information on phishing email scam. Retrieved from http://www.slu.edu/update-on-phishing-email-scam
University of Delaware. (2014). UD IT security
response. Retrieved from http://www.udel.edu/it/response/
Vijayan, J. (2015, January 13). Hack exposes lax
security in academia. Retrieved from http://www.computerworld.com/article/2568910/security0/hack-exposes-lax-security-in-academia.html
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