Post-Lockdown IT Challenges: The World Returns to Higher Education

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Managed Services, Security | 0 comments

Breaking Down Returning to Campus

Full Returns

Some campuses are beginning to transition back to normal operations. Colleges like Northeastern Illinois University are preparing to be operating face-to-face as soon as the Fall 2021 semester. Currently, Northeastern is operating 90% remotely. Their goal for fall is to have 70% of instruction take place in person.

As vaccines become more available and students take advantage of them, Northeastern is preparing for a 100% return.

Hybrid Campuses

Some schools, like Luiss University, saw higher levels of engagement from students after switching to remote models. Students are digital natives and they are comfortable navigating an online course. When professors at Luiss began incorporating polls, Q&A, and messaging into their lectures, they noticed an increase in student participation.

For some colleges and universities, the hybrid model allows them to provide a variety of classroom environments. When students are empowered to choose how they learn best, engagement increases.

Old and Emerging Security Threats

As campuses return to in-person learning, old and emerging threats are creeping in alongside students.

Phishing

In 2020, 60% of educational institutions were hit by a phishing attack. Cybercriminals exploited new remote environments and confusion created by the quick restructure to at-home learning to target students and staff of higher education. Cybersecurity’s weakest link is the human element. Phishing attacks disguised to look like official university communications can be a real danger to your school’s security posture. The best way to prevent phishing is to provide students and staff with the education and tools they need to identify potential threats.

Malware

In the midst of the pandemic, California schools were forced to shut down after a malware attack hit the 25,500 student school district. Malware has the potential to completely shut down school operations. Protecting your college or university from malware starts with an industry-leading monitoring tool. You can leverage monitoring and support from a third party to ensure your campus remains safe.

Ransomware

Ransomware became a significant problem for higher education in 2020. Attacks continued into 2021 after hackers identified higher education as a rich target. For many organizations, ransomware is not identified until IT receives the ransom note. Enforcing strong security policies and taking advantage of security services can help protect your school from this growing threat.

How to Protect Your Campus

Preventing COVID-19 Transmission

Some colleges have already begun to return to campus. Bay State College, located in downtown Boston, turned to Cisco Meraki to help limit the spread of COVID-19. With a student population of nearly 1,000, the institution decided it could reopen more safely than a larger university.

In this instance, Bay State College used several technologies:
● Cisco Meraki Smart Cameras – The college used the cameras’ built-in AI for contact tracing, capacity measurement and spatial awareness.
● Student ID Badges – The college issued new student ID badges with Bluetooth Low Emission (BLE) beacons.
● Cisco Meraki Access Points – These badges triangulated students’ locations on campus with Meraki Wi-Fi access points.

Deploying Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity isn’t solely the responsibility of IT. Everyone at your college or university should be encouraged to take steps to mitigate cybersecurity risks. This includes turning on two-factor authentication, frequently changing passwords, and reporting suspected attacks. IT can help by frequently communicating security policies and providing education on how to identify and report phishing attacks.

Some other best practices include:
● Restrict access to unauthorized applications on your campuses’ networks
● Use a trusted education service like Canvas to limit liability
● Restrict Bluetooth connectivity and USB drives
● Require students to install two-factor authentication

Peters Can Help You Return Safely

If you’re struggling to create a return-to-campus security policy that protects your school in-person and online, Peters can help. Our managed services give you access to 24/7 monitoring and reporting, cybersecurity experts, endpoint protection and more.

Find out how Peters can keep your campus secure.

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