Time To Un-Silo Education’s Information Systems

Response from Carl Siva, head of IT, Calbright College.

Carl Siva
Carl Siva

Traditionally college information systems are siloed because of organic growth and complexity over a long period of time. This condition causes a fragmentation of information related to student and faculty data which can lead to inefficiencies in supporting students.

With educational programs becoming more accessible to a larger population, an online format is one way to reach more students, more often.

With the growth of online systems in higher education, like what we offer at Calbright College, the need to access data real time for faculty and students alike is paramount.

I believe in 2020 we will see the evaluation of  platforms that have crossover appeal from other industries that are consumer and business focused in order to bring a modern, high-tech experience to Higher Education.

Rich student records that are accessible by multiple departments connected through cloud systems would allow any data attached to the student to be used for college purposes without passing the student to other departments.

This paradigm shift will ultimately accelerate student acquisition, support, and ultimate completion of their educational goals and beyond.

University’s Security Teams Must Work Under The Assumption That A Successful Cyber Attack Will Occur

Response from Doron Pinhas, CTO, Continuity Software.

Doron Pinhas
Doron Pinhas

As higher education institutions compete for prospective students and look to improve offerings for those during scouting, registration and on campus, universities are already using innovations such as artificial intelligence-enabled teaching assistant programs and advanced data collection and analysis to gain an edge.

The IT environments on which universities depend are most often hybrid and multi-cloud, and because of all the new technologies should be available 24X7. Think about course registration system that is down exactly as everyone is trying to register.

From a cybersecurity perspective, the university’s security teams must work under the assumption that a successful attack will occur, and ensure the organization’s ability to recover its systems and data in a very short time from such an event;

One pressing area of improvement is assuring the ability to recover your data. One of the most alarming scenarios of a cyberattack is when both the data and its backup are destroyed in a hacking incident, thus leaving the organization with no way to recover.

This could be a result of a ransomware attack where encrypted data has been propagated to the recovery copies or because the attacker stole credentials allowing the deletion of both data and its backup. An attack with such consequences can derail any organization, leading to severe business outcomes.

We see many organizations looking at automating cyber resilience configuration assessments, whose aim is to ensure that recovery and backup copies of data are kept in a secure and isolated manner while meeting cyber-recoverability configuration best practices and compliance with regulations and standards and security baseline requirements.

These objectives are achieved using automatic and continuous processes of knowledge-driven IT configuration analysis to ensure compliance with vendor and industry best practices, and detection and repair of deviations from best practice.

How To Protect Against Data Loss and Cyberattacks

Superhero, Girl, Speed, Runner, Running

Response from Mihai Corbuleac, senior IT consultant, StratusPointIT

The impact on reputation, operations and financial resources from a successful cyberattack can be wide-ranging and, hence, devastating. From data loss to extensive downtime, your IT staff and senior management team carries the heavy weight of responsibility.

So, if you don’t have sufficient expertise in-house, try to outsource, because the cost to reputation alone, if sensitive data is compromised, will make that investment viable. Check what systems are connected to the internet and if they don’t have to be, disconnect them, in order to reduce your exposure to cyber-attacks.

Make sure you back up your data regularly, and ensure you can restore from backups fast. Once you verify that you can recover from an attack, then start implementing some of the protections that are necessary to keep your data safe. Last but not least, train all your staff, make sure they understand how easy it is to unwillingly upload malware.

Additionally, email service is still the most common delivery method for malware which means that the human component is still the weakest link in the security chain and that’s because they don’t know what to expect, what an attack looks like, etc.

Employees should be educated in regard to cybersecurity, and business executives should begin using training platforms for that. Also, ensure that all employees access their work email from secure devices, preferably not their personal devices, they don’t open unsolicited emails or download suspicious attachments.

Survey: 84% of Education Entities Concerned About Compliance In Distributing Digital Resources

Kivuto, a provider of academic digital resources, recently released the results of its innaugural academic IT survey, exploring the complex challenges being faced today by IT departments within higher educational institutions.

Kivuto, in partnership with University Business, surveyed technology leaders from universities and colleges to get a better understanding of the challenges and complexities of managing and distributing academic digital resources.

The survey findings highlight a number of key challenges. Procedures that vary by department or by product, unintegrated systems, and limited visibility into product adoption and end-user satisfaction rates all add to the burden faced by academic IT management. This burden will continue to grow as more and more software moves to the cloud.

Among the key findings of the survey:

• 86% of respondents said the lack of integration between systems and workflows is the biggest challenge to managing and distributing digital resources.
• 67% of respondents were concerned by their lack of visibility into the rate of digital resource adoption and use at their institutions.
• 84% of respondents are concerned about compliance when it comes to distributing digital resources.

Ryan Peatt, chief product officer at Kivuto, said: “Shadow IT, decentralized licensing and distribution models, in-house systems, and manual workarounds have compounded the challenges that IT departments face when managing digital resources.

“Quite simply, they don’t know what they don’t know. It is not uncommon for an academic institution to have varying models for purchasing and distribution, nor is it uncommon for these processes to live on different campuses or even within different departments, making it impossible to have visibility across all channels in one central place.”

Today’s Integrated Solutions Simplify School Security

By James Marcella, director of industry associations, Axis Communications

James Marcella
James Marcella

Providing a safe and secure environment for children to learn and grow is naturally a high priority for schools. Today’s schools face the challenge of not just physically securing the premises, but building an environment that fosters a culture of learning and acceptance while balancing the expectations of a diverse set of stakeholders—including parents, faculty, staff, and the students themselves.

Fortunately, the integrated approach to security exemplified by today’s technology has put schools in a better position than ever to improve not just physical security, but day-to-day operations and emergency preparedness.

An Integrated Approach Can Improve More Than Security

“Physical Security”—when it comes to schools—used to mean locks on the doors. Over time, it has taken on new meaning, with many schools adding security cameras and others placing a resource officer on duty. Schools that wanted to put an increased emphasis on security didn’t have many tools available to them, and those that were available—such as metal detectors—were generally burdensome and imprecise.

Today’s security solutions are considerably more advanced. Surveillance cameras alone have undergone something of a digital revolution. In the past, even schools with considerable camera deployments could rarely afford the personnel necessary to effectively monitor those camera feeds—after all, even the most responsible and observant individual can’t possibly be expected to notice everything that happens across a dozen monitors.

Surveillance cameras were generally used to record incidents to be reviewed after the fact. Contrast that with today’s IP cameras, which can be equipped with advanced analytics tools capable of detecting security events as they happen and raising the necessary alerts as quickly as possible.

In fact, even using the word “camera” sells today’s surveillance technology short. In many ways, today’s cameras are the ultimate sensor, and can be equipped with applications that record far more than just the visual spectrum. Thermal cameras are monitoring the heat spectrum.

Radar detectors are identifying movement where none should occur. Audio monitoring can detect glass breakages or aggressive voices. And each of these can be integrated with a broader security system capable of generating real-time alerts to the relevant internal or external authorities.

Schools will also be looking beyond the camera in 2020, particularly as integrated solutions become increasingly capable of supporting other types of related initiatives. Adoption of access control technology will continue to grow as schools leverage this technology to secure building entrances, leveraging video intercoms to vet visitors in a secured vestibule implementation.

Although there are potential privacy issues still to be resolved with tools like facial recognition, similar video analytics tools can provide a valuable new way to flag unauthorized individuals before they gain access to the school.

Communications will likewise remain essential to day-to-day operations—as well as proving critical during emergencies. Interoperable technology that enables bi-directional communication from classrooms, handheld radios, and public access solutions provides a clear benefit to schools, particularly as the technology can be federated to law enforcement when needed, allowing for direct communication between authorities and those on the ground.

Continue Reading

Securing Your K-12 Campus: The Case For Adopting Modern Visitor Management Systems

By Nick Heywood, PMP, associate vice president, Guidepost Solutions.

Nick Heywood

Knowing who is on campus at any given time is an issue that schools have tried to tackle for many years using traditional paper-based processes such as a visitor log. Reliance on good visitor behavior and unreasonable expectations that people will always do the right thing are assumptions that have negatively impacted the integrity of the K-12 campus security posture.

Using the standard method of sign-in sheets and issuing badges is often operationalized with the sole intent to serve as a process check rather than to provide automated notification of a visitor concern or a means for first responders to conduct rollcall in an emergency situation.

The use of the paper visitor sign-in process should be eliminated when funding is available to deploy an electronic, software-based visitor management system that supports a process of verifying the visitor’s identity.

A school’s visitor management program needs additional physical security components to effectively support its operation and use, such as wayfinding and signage and controlled entry points. The traditional paper method simply does not address the physical operational needs to successfully support a visitor management policy. It is important to remember the power of perception and how district staff will set the example for others to follow.

For instance, all visitors, district staff or other outside contractors should, by policy, be required to sign-in daily at a main administration office, regardless of familiarity with any of these visitors. Often district personnel fail to sign-in as they are familiar to staff. Without an approved security credential specific to individual facilities and their work locations, schools are placing their greatest assets (students, faculty and staff) at risk.

Modern electronic visitor management systems support a school district’s ability to implement holistic district-wide visitor management providing much greater control. This approach, coupled with a culture in which leadership empowers its administration to enforce policies and procedures, will lead to a stronger security posture.

Single points of entry with controlled vestibules allow schools to control, monitor and approve access from a secured control point. Without the electronic visitor management system in place, school personnel may be in a situation in which they will have to confront visitors who may not be suitable to enter a school – potentially creating a stressful face-to-face encounter.

Continue Reading

Smart Campus, Safe Campus

By Randy Lack, safety, security and computer vision manager for the Americas, Dell Technologies.

Randy Lack

Many colleges and universities are working to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to build “smart campuses” that promise new peace of mind for students and their families and a better overall experience for all who set foot on campus.

Schools are the largest market for video security systems in the U.S., with an estimated $450 million spent in 2018. Adoption will continue to increase as IoT-enabled security solutions come onto the scene—empowering colleges and universities to do more than monitor security cameras and investigate after-event footage.

New kinds of devices and powerful analytics, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, are transforming cameras and sensors from passive data collectors into intelligent observers with the ability to recognize and alert security to potential problems, provide real-time insight during unfolding events, and help identify patterns to proactively deter and prevent problems.

Smart IP cameras with “computer vision” can learn over time to recognize patterns and behaviors in order to zero in on suspicious activity and better predict the likelihood of events. These cameras, combined with sensors that can detect sound, temperature, vibration, chemicals and more, form a system that can alert security to potential problems by relying on insights delivered from analytics-driven interconnected IoT devices.

As a result, security teams can help improve response, share critical information with first responders, make better use of available resources, and help prevent situations from escalating or in some cases, help prevent them from occurring in the first place.

The following are just some of the innovative secure-campus applications being deployed today:

The need for a holistic, integrated approach

To take advantage of these applications, it’s important to understand that security is no longer confined to self-contained, standalone systems and departments. With IoT, campus safety becomes a widely distributed, networked, and data-driven solution, with new requirements for shared campus policies and IT modernization across infrastructure, security, data management, analytics, operations, software development, and more.

Indeed, many HiEd safety solutions require integration with security and IT organizations beyond the physical campus. For example, a large urban campus in southern California and surrounding city government are working together to tie together data from campus, municipal and even the shuttle buses that transport students to and from the city for cultural and sporting events. The solution being developed also enables city and campus police to log in to each other’s systems when coordinated efforts are needed.

Continue Reading

Open Switching Has Won The Data Center. Next Up: Campus Access Networks.

By Jeff Paine, vice president of marketing, Pica8.

Jeff Paine

There’s a revolution sweeping the world’s biggest data centers: open switching. Look inside the top seven web-scale companies, and you won’t find the big networking incumbents. Instead, you’ll see “white-box” switches (or, in many cases, open “brite-box” switches produced by vendors like Dell EMC) that can run open, Linux-based network operating systems from multiple vendors.

What do these companies know that the rest of the industry doesn’t? That there’s no law dictating you have to use proprietary network devices and management software. And that, by leaving the proprietary world behind, you can simplify your network and radically reduce your costs.

This secret is now spreading to organizations in every industry, including education. Colleges and universities have experimented with open switching in research labs for years, but until recently, it just wasn’t feasible for the larger campus network. Now, the last barriers to open access networks have disappeared. University IT departments are starting to realize that the status quo for campus networks is a choice, not an imperative, and there are compelling alternatives to consider.

Seeding the Open Network Revolution

Most colleges and universities use the same aging, proprietary campus network infrastructure they’ve had in place for years. After all, when these networks were built, the big names in networking (Cisco, Juniper, Extreme) were the only options. Despite massive shifts in the devices and applications that have come to rely on access networks in the intervening years, surprisingly little has changed. To the point that most university IT departments just accept these networks’ inherent disadvantages as the price of doing business. Disadvantages like:

For several years now, the hyper-scale web companies have used open networks to address all these issues. White-box/brite-box solutions can do the same things as brand-name devices (and use the same underlying hardware) with far more architectural flexibility, at a fraction of the price. Until recently though, there were gaps in these solutions that kept open switching relegated to data center networks (or, on college campuses, to the lab).

Continue Reading

Tulane University: Securing and Protecting Personal Data of Students, Faculty and Staff Is Among Highest Priorities

Image result for tulane university photos"Tulane University works with Digital Defense, Inc. to increase the security of the data and personal information of more than 16,000 students, faculty and staff. Tulane was struggling with reports that provided large amounts of static and extraneous data, which then had to be distilled into something actionable.

“In higher education, we have the unique challenge of walking a very fine line between providing a secure environment for our students, faculty and staff, while being careful not to be the internet police and block valuable research,” said Hunter Ely, assistant vice president, information security and policy officer at Tulane University.

The Tulane security team discovered a customizable vulnerability scanning and management tool able to deliver reports that provide actionable intelligence, allowing the team to move quickly on remediation issues and help protect the sensitive data of students, faculty and staff.

“Digital Defense helps us identify and remediate critical issues with clear and concise reports supported by a team of knowledgeable experts,” said Mark Liggett, senior security analyst at Tulane University.

Thanks to a vulnerability scanning technology (Frontline VM) Tulane experiences fewer false positives, which saves time, and Frontline VM does not take weeks of training to get new people up and running. This means more members of the security team can use it and have role-based access to the data.

“The data from Frontline VM is distinct without having to go into a lengthy description, and the critical issues are very clear – the big things do not get lost in the shuffle,” said Liggett.

“We work hard to ensure our clients are receiving the data they need to make their environments secure, and also provide security savvy support to assist in rapidly remediating security vulnerabilities that our solutions uncover,” said Larry Hurtado, CEO of DDI. “We understand that higher education institutions like Tulane face a unique set of challenges, and we work hard to support them in keeping the information in their community protected.”

Continue Reading

Higher Education Is Increasingly Becoming The Target of Cyberattacks: How To Respond

Response from Michael Greene, CEO, Enzoic.

Image result for Michael Greene, CEO, Enzoic"
Michael Greene

Higher education institutions in the US and abroad are increasingly becoming the target of cyberattacks. Reliance on digitized student records has given cybercriminals multiple avenues to access student information.

To accommodate the student, employee, and research needs, most higher education institutions maintain relatively open, accessible networks and systems. This presents a conundrum for schools: how to balance security needs while facilitating academic activities.

The risk to individual students is high: a breached student record delivers a comprehensive view of a student’s life including personal demographic data, academic records, financial information, and in some cases, even confidential medical data. Compounding these risks is the fact student records are retained for years after they leave the institution.

Students are often the source of potential data breaches. They need to be educated on cybersecurity hygiene principles including the risks with using old and outdated software programs and sharing login credentials with friends and other students. Another risk is downloading sensitive data to personal devices that are typically less protected than institution-owned computer systems or connecting personal devices to the school’s network.

Once connected to the school’s network, each of these personal devices pose additional vulnerabilities to the institution’s systems and many authentication solutions can only run on certain devices or devices that have certain technologies (like biometrics). Even if a school has robust security measures in place, the number of access points introduced by individual devices may unintentionally expose sensitive data.

Continue Reading