Data breach a major concern as universities struggle with cyber threats

73% of reported cases involves leak or sale of databases which includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII), website user records and examination results

University and college staffs along with students and parents should be regularly trained
University and college staffs along with students and parents should be regularly trained

Cyber threats have become a major concern across sectors and education is no exception. The report titled ‘Cyber Threats Targeting the Global Education Sector’ by CloudSEK, a Singapore-based digital risk management enterprise points out 20% increase in cyber threats in the global education sector in the first three months of 2022 as compared to the same period in 2021. “Data breach of our enquiry list, that is prospective students’ details for admission, is one of the primary concerns at Lovely Professional University (LPU),” Rajeev Sobti, senior dean and professor- Computer Science Engineering and head of admissions, LPU told FE Education Online.

Student and parent details including Aadhaar number, phone number, among others are crucial data points for universities and colleges. Along with these, information related to financials such as salaries of faculties and grants received by the university are certain details which are at high risk from cyber attacks. The report further revealed that 73% of reported cases involved leak or sale of databases which included Personally Identifiable Information (PII), website user records and examination results. “Along with data breach, another threat is Axis Control Misconfiguration in which firewall rules get misconfigured and additional databases get exposed,” agreed Sambuddho Chakravarty, Associate Professor at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIITD), said, adding that the institute has faced data breach several times. 

According to Harish Kumar Taluja, director, School of Engineering and Technology, Noida International University, ransomware is a crucial threat to universities and colleges due to the availability of confidential data. Furthermore, cyber threats are not limited to just data breach. “Different types of cyber attacks in recent times such as phishing, hacking social media handles and creating fake social media accounts have increased in the last two years,” Daviendra Narang, director, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Ghaziabad, explained. 

As institutes continue to battle these attacks, the industry believes that it is time that educational institutions gear up and invest to build a robust cyber security systems. Additionally university and college staff along with students and parents should be regularly trained and made aware of the cyber attacks and ways to handle them. “The need of the hour is universities and educational institutions adapting centralised secured system to ensure protection for their important information,” Ketan Shah, associate dean- Accreditations and professor and head- IT Department, Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering (MPSTME), Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), said. 

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First published on: 03-06-2022 at 07:54 IST