Colleges and universities are no strangers to data breaches. It’s estimated that roughly 82 colleges and public school districts experienced cyberattacks in 2021, creating disruption that impacted more than 1,000 individual institutions and schools across the US.
The reality is that ransomware and other cyber attacks are going through the roof – and it’s having an impact on the bottom line. What’s more, cyber insurance providers are taking note and increasing the price of premiums and policies, placing an additional burden on higher education institutions. In some cases, colleges and universities cannot afford cyber insurance.
Despite increased challenges around data management and security in higher education, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Data should also be viewed as an opportunity
University Data & Data Management is Nuanced
Higher education institutions experience unique challenges when it comes to data and data security. They are dealing with large volumes of sensitive student data, but they are also dealing with data tied to academic research and development. The result has been an increase in compliance standards and regulations around higher education institutions, including the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification
Cyber attacks are showing no signs of slowing down in the US. Instead, we’re seeing an acceleration of federal mandates and compliance requirements. While this can create short-term strain on universities that must make sometimes monumental adjustments, it cal also lead to maturity and modernization in how universities deal with data.
All of this is complicated further by the increase in remote learning, which broadens the threat surface and potentially unearths new vulnerabilities for university systems. Some sources say miscellaneous errors, system intrusion, and social engineering and some of the more prevalent attack patterns that are emerging in this period – and their sites are set on universities and colleges. Bad actors are constantly on the hunt for new ways to exploit and defraud vulnerable systems, so universities must remain zealous in data management and security.
The Data Opportunity
While data management can present many challenges for universities, data also presents a major opportunity. As remote learning takes off and colleges collect data on a wide swatch of things from student performance to platform performance and network access, they can begin to apply predictive analytics to improve things across the board.
This will, of course, require collaboration among university departments and IT to gain greater visibility and transparency into these new, larger data sets. If they can accomplish this, it can provide a holistic view into both operations and the effectiveness of remote learning. That data can also be applied to make informed decisions about future courses of action that can improve a university’s success.
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