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From government agencies to multinational corporations — no one is immune to the threat posed by cyberattacks. Higher education institutions are especially at risk. Estimates suggest that nearly 87% of educational institutions have experienced at least 1 successful cyberattack. In the United Kingdom, 36% of universities are hit with a successful cyberattack every hour.
Online learning platforms and digital student portals make colleges and universities an especially vulnerable target. A report by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) found that over 60% of monthly malware attempts in Microsoft 365 are focused on the education sector — 6 times higher than the next closest industry. Phishing, ransomware and denial-of-service attacks are especially common — and on the rise.
Cyber security attacks pose a serious threat to student and faculty privacy. Attackers can steal sensitive data, disrupt networks or even paralyze entire systems. Cyberattacks also force institutions to expend significant time and resources into restabilizing networks and recovering data.
One report estimates the cost of these education sector ransomware attacks to be valued at $6.62 billion in 2020 — with hackers receiving at least $1.9 million in payouts.
The Problem of Unpreparedness
The unfortunate reality is that most higher education institutions are ill-prepared to effectively ward off cybersecurity attacks. Administrative departments lack sufficient funding for protective digital systems, and staff members don’t have the tools or knowledge to manage cybersecurity successfully.
New challenges are also coming to the surface. As more lessons transition online, the problem of verifying the identity of a student taking a class or sitting for an exam remains largely unsolved. There’s also the issue of how to increase security protections without simultaneously making online systems more inconvenient or inaccessible.
Finally, the global pandemic and subsequent transition to remote and hybrid learning models has exacerbated all these effects. It quite realistically seems that higher educational institutions could be at their height of vulnerability.
Best Practices for Cybersecurity
The heightened danger of cyberattacks to universities and colleges also means that these institutions are well-positioned to benefit from advanced cybersecurity solutions.
Stronger multi-factor authentication methods, more effective anti-phishing defenses, risk assessment protocols and IT personnel training are all approaches that could greatly reduce the impacts and risks of cyberattacks. Assessing the cybersecurity preparedness of third-party vendors is also critical.
Higher educational institutions at the forefront of protecting against unauthorized access attacks are turning towards companies like BIO-key International, Inc. (NASDAQ: BKYI). BIO-key is an Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Identity-Bound Biometrics provider specializing in authentication and cybersecurity solutions.
For some of the biggest threats facing higher educational institutions, including ransomware and phishing, BIO-key maintains solutions like access control with multi-factor authentication. This technology makes it difficult for hackers to gain unauthorized entry and traverse across systems and data.
BIO-key boasts over 25 years of expertise in providing some of the most advanced cybersecurity and authentication technology on the market. Its solutions are trusted by Fortune 500 companies, smaller businesses and top educational institutions. Most recently, BIO-key’s PortalGuard platform was selected by the University of Denver for its enhanced security features.
Learn more about BIO-key’s cybersecurity solutions and how they can be tailored to address your institution’s needs here. And make sure to keep up to date with BIO-key’s most recent developments and insights into cybersecurity on its blog.
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