The changing nature of delivering education post-pandemic has boosted cyber security awareness, and addressing its flaws has become a necessity for educational institutions.
Schools and colleges were already vulnerable to cyber attacks before COVID-19, and the rise in the education sector’s reliance on online learning platforms post-pandemic may have exacerbated existing problems. Today, institutions are more susceptible than ever to disruption through ransomware and phishing attacks.
Higher education institutions store vast amounts of personal information about students, faculty, and staff and keep valuable research data on file, making them particularly vulnerable to cybercrime.
Cyber Security Attacks On Educational Institutions At An All-Time High
Academic institutions and research organizations were the top targets globally for cyber attackers in 2021. At an average of 1,605 attacks per organization per week, this was a 75% increase from 2020, according to research by Check Point Software Technologies.
Microsoft Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) security intelligence blog highlights similar statistics, with over 80% percent of nearly 10 million malware encounters in recent months targeted at the education sector.
The key attack vehicles for cyber threats in the education sector reportedly include ransomware and phishing, and such attacks could prove costly for the institutions targeted. Some examples from recent years:
The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) paid $1.14 million in Bitcoin in June 2020 to recover School of Medicine data that's important to the university’s academic work.
Attackers demanded $2 million in Bitcoin from New York City-based Monroe College after disabling its technology systems in July 2020.
The University of Utah paid nearly $500,000 to recover data following a ransomware attack.
Lincoln College, a private school based in Illinois, announced this week that it will be closing permanently after 157 years following a ransomware attack.
Why Attack Educational Institutions?
Many colleges and universities — especially those that rely on public funding — are ill-prepared to prevent or deal with cyber-attacks because of budgetary constraints and a lack of adequate security awareness.
Reports show that more than 30% of higher education breaches are a result of students falling victim to email scams, misuse of social media, or activities relating to password sharing.
A Modern Yet Simple Solution May Be Found In Biometrics
BIO-key International Inc. (NASDAQ: BKYI), an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions provider, says it may have a robust solution to tackle this problem.
According to the company, educational institutions could benefit from including biometric authentication options — especially for end users such as students, who would be able to avoid password fatigue or memorizing complicated passwords.
Most universities the company has dealt with use multi-factor authentication involving passwords and physical tokens or one-time passwords via mobile phones to tackle the increasing threat of cyber attacks. And although strong multi-factor authentication would always be more secure than a username and password, physical tokens or mobile phones involve a higher cost and have the risk of being misplaced, lost, or shared — resulting in downtime to reinstate access and the potential for cyber attacks to still occur, according to BIO-key.
The company says that biometrics is a low-cost, easy-to-use, and secure method of authentication that could enable convenient and secure access to devices, information, applications and transactions.
According to BIO-key, biometric authentication methods, specifically using Identity-Bound Biometrics, are the only methods that can truly verify the identity of the individual requesting access. It does not require the user to carry additional devices and cannot be used for unauthorized delegation or sharing of credentials.
BIO-key’s signature solution PortalGuardⓇ reportedly offers both a cloud-based and on-premises multi-factor authentication solution, which is both secure and easy to use for educational institutions, covering students, staff, and faculty populations.
The company says it secures access for over 200 institutions through its PortalGuard platform and has been supporting higher education for over 20 years. The platform has flexible options for single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, adaptive authentication and self-service password reset that could save money for sparsely staffed IT departments at educational institutions.
Biometric verification and authentication is still new to many colleges and universities, and it may seem daunting at first for them to grasp the overall technological impact of implementing a biometric access management solution, BIO-key said. To overcome this, the company recommends starting with a smaller-scale deployment of its Identity-Bound Biometrics, such as implementing it in research labs or research areas to safeguard highly confidential resources or where work is completed on shared workstations. This would allow educational institutions to test the approach in a more controlled environment and expand to other areas over time.
To learn more about implementing an IAM solution for educational institutions check out BIO-key’s higher education e-book.
To learn more about BIO-key visit www.BIO-key.com.
BIO-key is revolutionizing authentication and cybersecurity with biometric-centric, multi-factor identity and access management (IAM) software managing millions of users. Its cloud-based PortalGuard IAM solution provides cost-effective, easy to deploy, convenient and secure access to devices, information, applications, and high-value transactions. BIO-key's patented software and hardware solutions, with industry-leading Identity-Bound Biometric (IBB) capabilities, enable large-scale Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) solutions, as well as customized on premises solutions.
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Catalyst IR- William Jones, David Collins