Colleges and universities are some of the most vulnerable entities to cyber-attacks. Higher education organizations store big amounts of important data, such as student and faculty information. Data breaches in educational institutions were already common even before the pandemic. In recent years, though, because of the hybrid or remote curriculums of classes, the number of cyber-attacks has risen dramatically.
Reasons for Higher Education Vulnerability
A significant reason for higher education’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks is that universities and colleges generally want to promote an open culture. They want to appear transparent and accessible to the public and this has made their networks “as open and inviting as their campuses”.
Another fact that works against higher education institutions is that they have had internet access for a very long time. As a result, their weak points are already known by cybercriminals. Ironically, the fact that universities were one of the first types of organizations to utilize the internet makes their current equipment outdated. The reason for this is that they rely on legacy systems instead of buying new ones. This equipment can be easily exploited by hackers using cutting edge technology.
Finally, universities and colleges don’t really prepare for cyber threats. Cyber security experts are generally hard to find and few of them work for institutions of higher education. This happens because not many institutions care to invest in cyber security and find suitable employees for this purpose.
Types of Threats
There are a lot of potential cyber-attacks regarding institutions of higher education. Some of them are pretty common in different industries and we have talked about them in previous articles. Below we will list them briefly.
- Phishing: By using this attack, a threat actor pretends to represent a trusted entity in order to acquire information from an unsuspected victim. In this instance, a hacker could pose as a college corporate and obtain information, such as student or faculty login passwords and access the college’s systems to steal valuable data.
- SQL Injection: This type of cyber-attack is performed by inserting malicious code in a query box of a website. Universities and colleges use many query boxes on their websites in which visitors must use to insert their credentials so they can access the information they need. Cyber-criminals can utilize these boxes to inject the systems with code and gain access to significant data.
- Ransomware: Ransomware attacks are used to encrypt victim data and allow hackers to demand ransom to decrypt them. Institutions of higher education hold student and faculty information and other valuable information related to potential research done by these institutions.
There is a big number of cyber-threats that can target institutions of higher education. Universities and colleges are not usually properly prepared to face these threats and this is something they should reconsider.
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In Logstail we are also offering the full range of services required to effectively mitigate cyber-attacks. Incident response and consulting, penetration testing and red team operations are altogether aiming to help our customers reduce their cyber incidents. Sign-up for a free demo to realize the power of Logstail!
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