Cyber Security

The Cyber Security Challenges in Educational Institutions

Educational institutions have always been targets for hackers. The reason is quite simple, there is a lot of data out there, and the target audience may not always be equipped with hefty IT solutions to prevent cyber-attacks.

In 2018, nine hackers were responsible for password spraying on 300 universities[1] worldwide! Such cases and numbers have been on the rise of late. It is indeed true that cyber attackers are becoming more and more sophisticated with their methods. But the reason there is a stark increase in the rise of attacks on educational institutions is not a mere coincidence.

In this blog, we are addressing some of the common reasons for these vulnerabilities.

Devices Vulnerability

Universities are filled with devices. Students use their laptops, phones, the desktops provided by universities. The IT infrastructure over such systems is not that strict either, whereas the network of devices is extensive.

This, by default BYOD philosophy, brings with it a lot of risks. Students living on the campuses as well and browsing websites at their will make security an alarming fact.

The fact that a lot of mobile phones of students are also jailbroken does not help the security posture.

The Email System

The universities, much like other organizations, run on emails traveling back and forth. Between students as well as faculty for assignments and more.

Moreover, a lot of faculty emails are available openly. If a bad actor gets his/her hand on the database of students and faculty, then a lot of social engineering methods can be used.

Cyber-attacks like phishing, take advantage of human psychology. One alarming email about a last-minute last assignment or about online offers could easily lure recipients into clicking on the email and thereby entering details that could compromise the entire network.

Staffing Issues

A lot of times, universities have been on the receiving end of criticism for the lack of modern IT resources for security purposes. Although the adoption of solutions is changing, there is still a dearth of skilled employees who could handle sophisticated attacks.

Moreover, a lot of the devices in most educational institutions are legacy systems. These cannot be easily integrated with security solutions by most IT vendors.

Too Much at Stake

The reason why educational institutes are at a higher risk of getting hacked is because they are educational institutions!

Research findings are continually being made, a lot of students and faculty members get funding to conduct several research-based experiments. These projects could potentially hold information sensitive to the military.

Or a lot of research could be medical related. Such data could be sold for a high price by a bad actor.

Another reason is the enormous amount of Personally Identifiable Information[2] available of all the students and faculty as well. It can contain sensitive medical information as an example. Universities must stay compliant with regulations like HIPPA.

Identity Management Smart Enough to Deal with It All

Educational institutions need smart IAM solutions, so they integrate easily with the legacy systems and take care of password related problems as well as the BYOD conundrum.

They could even control access to sensitive files, thereby keeping them safe. Most importantly, they will be able to provide holistic risk patterns to ensure that security is always proactive and not just reactive.


  1. https://inhomelandsecurity.com/iranian-hackers-american-universities/ – 30/06/2020
  2. https://www.ilantus.com/blog/what-is-personally-identifiable-information-pii/ – 30/06/2020
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Binod Singh

Binod Singh has over 30 years' experience in the Information Security industry. As one of the pioneers of the 'Identity and Access Management' domain, he has worked with various organizations across the globe, shaping cyber-security strategies and building breakthrough technologies. He is the Founder, CEO, and President of Ilantus Technologies, recognized as an Innovation leader in Identity and Access Management by KuppingerCole. Associated with several social initiatives, Binod believes in building corporate policies that intrinsically factor in the development of the underprivileged. The consummate professional, he is an inspiring mentor, avid reader, lover of good music and enjoys well-made cinema.
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