5 Tips for Overcoming Multi-cloud Security Challenges in Education
Over the past decade, organisations within education have rapidly evolved, by adopting technologies that support e-learning environments. This has enabled a number of benefits, such as more efficient teaching and sharing of information, personalised lessons to let students progress at their own pace, and great cost savings.
Administrative offices within this sector have also embarked on their digital transformation journey, adopting cloud-based support technologies such as enrolment, recruiting, and financial management systems. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps are being used primarily for collaboration, content delivery, communication, and accessing learning materials.
On the flipside, while turning to public clouds provides flexibility and cost savings, it also means universities, colleges and schools need to store—and share—vast quantities of data. Additionally, adding cloud applications and environments to the network expands organisations’ attack surface and introduces gaps in security.
Top security challenges facing educational institutions
For many organisations such as Bradfield College is having better control over what content students can access. In the UK, schools must comply with Prevent and Ofsted legislation and keep students safe in a completely unobtrusive way. Additionally, for institutions such as Thomas’s London Day Schools, catering for more tech than can comfortably be handled is also a problem. Teachers and students increasingly use multiple devices concurrently. With the growing number of staff and pupil handsets, tablets and laptops trying to get online, IT teams receive more and more complaints about service reliability.
Addressing these concerns can become a serious challenge, as any organisation running complex networks faces an increased risk of:
- Poor visibility: Each cloud vendor approaches security in a different way, making consistent policy and meaningful visibility very difficult.
- No integration or coordination: Security measures are often piecemeal and isolated.
- Reactive security: In this era of zero-day threats and shrinking intrusion-to-breach windows, organisations can’t afford to be reactive in their security approach.
IT teams that lack integration of security products are going to have difficulty understanding whether they are adequately protecting students and data. In addition, compiling information from different systems to create an overall compliance report is very time-consuming.
With applications and data spread across multiple clouds, how can you keep your school safe? Here are five best practices.
1. Control network access. Due to the high volume of users entering and exiting a school’s network, it is crucial to identify who has access and to which resources. For effective cybersecurity, use solutions that can easily identify users and then dynamically assign access to network segments accordingly.
2. Centralise your control. IT teams usually have many point solutions to address multiple attack vectors. However, because each of these point solutions provides different intelligence and varying degrees of data visibility, relying on information from each of these siloed tools can be burdensome on resources. Instead, IT teams would benefit from a centralised single-pane-of-glass visibility into data movement across the network to effectively manage network security controls.
3. Consolidate your endpoints. With more applications, technologies, and IoT devices being added to the network, each independent endpoint becomes a potential entryway into the network. When you consolidate these potential entryways by tying them together through a single, integrated network security framework, you drastically reduce your potential attack surface and simplify your cybersecurity efforts while more efficiently coordinating them across the network.
4. Get threat intelligence. Cyber-attacks can be disseminated through a multitude of attack vectors such as emails, web applications, or malicious links and attachments. Ransomware is a big threat in the education space, and universities are also regularly targeted with phishing attacks and DDoS attacks using botnets to achieve their means. Schools are also targeted by zero-day vulnerabilities, or flaws in their hardware and software, that are difficult to detect until it is too late and a breach has occurred. To mitigate each of these types of attacks, deploy both global and local threat intelligence to update your security infrastructure.
5. Choose automation. The right technology is critical, but so are the people who oversee it. However, building out this infrastructure and team on a limited budget is a challenge, especially given the cybersecurity skills gap employers are facing. To overcome this challenge, deploy integrated and automated security infrastructure that allows rapid response to each incident, without having to wait for data to be collated and addressed by a busy team member. Additionally, these capabilities result in decreased cybersecurity costs, as integrated solutions are more cost-effective than disparate point solutions or employing a large enough IT team to manage the network manually.
As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, organisations in the education sector face unique technology and security challenges. To maintain a secure learning environment and minimise risk exposure, IT teams must find and implement consolidated solutions that offer multiple benefits within a single, easy-to-manage secure platform. When architected properly, network security enables digital transformation and e-learning, letting universities, colleges and schools reap the benefits of exciting new technologies, in the safest way possible.