Higher Education Faces Current Challenges and Future Solutions to Cybersecurity [Weekly Cybersecurity Brief]

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Education, including higher ed, has been forced to face quite a few challenges over the course of the past year. But handling the issues associated with the shift to remote learning are not the only concerns on the plate of these institutions. Recent system threats at two universities prove that cybersecurity is also an important part of that list. But, just as higher ed is a site of cybersecurity vulnerabilities, it may also be the site of cybersecurity solutions.

 

Brown University is one of the schools impacted by a potential cybersecurity breach. After receiving a cybersecurity threat, the university had to ask faculty and staff to avoid the use of computers running Microsoft Windows according to Inside Higher Ed. The threat was discovered by the IT team who cut off access to the university’s central data center and connected systems in response. Bill Thirsk, chief digital officer and chief information officer at Brown, released a statement that there is a university-wide effort to address the problem, but everyone is being asked to work on devices that run other operating systems in the meantime.

 

However, Brown is not the only university to experience a disruptive cybersecurity compromise. UC Berkeley reported that employee data had been released to the public following an attack on the file transfer service used in the UC Office of the President. Coverage from The Daily Californian states that a number of UC Berkeley email accounts as well as email accounts from across the UC system were sent messages informing them of the accessed personal data. A press release from the Office of the President noted that the attack stemmed from a wider cyberattack on a file transfer service from security provider Accellion that has impacted other universities, government agencies and private companies.

 

While these universities grapple with responding to these events, another is using a grant to educate future cybersecurity leaders. In January Virginia Tech was awarded $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop skilled cybersecurity professionals. In a quote shared in Virginia Business, Laura Freeman, a research associate professor of statistics in Virginia Tech’s College of Science and principal investigator on the grant, shared that recent news demonstrates the significant vulnerability we face. Therefore, the grant is helping to fund the creation of curriculum, experiential learning projects and research. According to Virginia Business, “This semester, 36 students are working on five projects focused on embedded-systems security and protecting small satellites.” Other universities, specifically with military programs, have also received this grant money including Virginia Military Institute, South Carolina’s The Citadel, the University of North Georgia, Texas A&M University and Vermont’s Norwich University.

Key Takeaways:

 

“Brown Suspends IT Systems Amid Cybersecurity Threat” – Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2021/04/02/brown-suspends-it-systems-amid-cybersecurity-threat

  • Brown University received a cybersecurity threat impacting its Microsoft Windows system.
  • After discovering the threat, IT staff cut off access to the university’s central data center and connected systems.
  • The university is working to address the problem but has asked faculty to work on devices that do not operate off of Microsoft Windows in the meantime.

 

“Nationwide cybersecurity attack compromises UC employee data” – Aditya Katewa, The Daily Californian

https://www.dailycal.org/2021/03/31/nationwide-cybersecurity-attack-compromises-uc-employee-data/

  • UC Berkeley reported that employee data had been released to the public following an attack on the file transfer service.
  • Email accounts across UC Berkeley and the UC system reportedly received messages that their personal information had been compromised.
  • A press release from the Office of the President noted that the attack stemmed from a wider cyberattack on a file transfer service from security provider Accellion that has impacted other universities, government agencies and private companies.

 

“Virginia Tech aims to fill cybersecurity jobs gaps” – Beth Jojack, Virginia Business

https://www.virginiabusiness.com/article/virginia-tech-aims-to-fill-cybersecurity-jobs-gaps/

  • Virginia Tech is using a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop skilled cybersecurity professionals.
  •  The grant is helping to fund the creation of curriculum, experiential learning projects and research including student-led projects on embedded-systems security and protecting small satellites.
  • In addition to Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute, South Carolina’s The Citadel, the University of North Georgia, Texas A&M University and Vermont’s Norwich University have also received such funding.

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