5 Simple Steps To Keep College Students and Professors Safe From Attack

5 Simple Steps To Keep College Students and Professors Safe From Attack

College IT security managers face a special challenge. Unlike companies, they have to manage thousands of new users every year. That means it is challenging to promote effective security habits. That’s not all. In college cybersecurity, you are also expected to protect sensitive records such as student records, research data and financial files.

What Is The Consequence Of Failing To Manage College IT Security?

Unfortunately, ineffective college IT security is a constant problem. To clarify what can go wrong, let’s take a look at some recent cybersecurity failures in the news.

  • Georgia Tech. In 2019, this tech-savvy college suffered a significant data breach impacting more than 1.3 million faculty, students and staff. In this case, the attack involved a zero-day vulnerability, a category of problem that is difficult to stop. This data breach is especially problematic since Georgia Tech has a reputation as a technology leader. Further, the institution is expected to follow the Georgia Personal Identity Protection Act.
  • UK University Cyber Defenses Beaten In Two Hours. Proactive testing is one of the best ways to test the quality of your college IT security. In the UK, “a test of UK university defenses against cyber-attacks found that in every case hackers were able to obtain ‘high-value’ data within two hours,” according to the BBC. Fortunately, this proactive testing gives universities the opportunity to find problems and work to improve them. Your college may have similar vulnerabilities.

As more of these incidents occur, it raises uncomfortable questions for colleges and universities. Can students trust the institution? Should governments apply more scrutiny to college funding and operations? Rather than face these questions reactively, we recommend taking proactive steps to improve IT security.

The Five Simple Steps You Need To Use

To preserve your college’s reputation and inspire trust from students, faculty and staff, use these steps to improve cybersecurity.

1) Review Your College’s IT Security Strategy

IT security is fundamentally a matter of probabilities and risk management. Nobody can guarantee you will NEVER suffer another IT security event. However, you can reduce the likelihood and impact of those events. To get an overall perspective, consider using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) model to evaluate your IT strategy from a security perspective.

  • Strengths. Your strengths in security may include computer science and engineering professors and students interested in helping you to improve security.
  • Weaknesses. In college IT security, the student body is a significant weakness because it is constantly changing. That means it is tough to maintain a high level of security awareness and habits.
  • Opportunities. If your state or jurisdiction has privacy laws like Georgia, such requirements make it easier to gain approval for IT security resources.
  • Threats. If your institution carries out highly sensitive technology research, you may face an increased likelihood of hacking attacks.

Based on this analysis, you are going to find problems. That’s a good thing because finding problems on your own means you have the chance to make improvements.

2) Analyze Your Security Gaps vs. Your Capabilities

By going through the first step, you will know your gaps. Next, you need to decide what to do about those problems. Analyze which of your gaps you can solve by reviewing your technology, people and process capabilities.

Technology. Within technology, look at this area from two angles. First, look at the technology you are obliged to protect (i.e., what are the servers, infrastructure and applications your college has). Second, examine the IT security software solutions you have in place.


As your college has grown in complexity, your IT security staff may not keep up. You can assess your people in terms of quantity and quality. From a workload perspective, do you have enough team to execute your responsibilities? Next, do your staff have adequate qualifications and training including certifications and training on specific technologies. Vendor-specific technology certifications often need to be updated over time, so consider that factor as well.


Your IT security processes also need to be reviewed. Cover both big-picture items like your IT security policy and day-to-day procedures. For example, do you have a process to assess cloud services or detect “shadow IT” arrangements? Shadow IT refers to technology services, software and infrastructure purchased and used outside of regular IT processes. To test the effectiveness of your processes, carry out a test to check 5-10 processes and see if they are used in practice.

3) Increase IT Security Productivity

In the previous step, you probably found gaps in your IT security software. Fortunately, this is an area where you can obtain quick wins! With people development and process, you might have to wait for months or years to complete significant improvements. Some IT security technology can be implemented much faster than that!

To improve IT security productivity and speed, choose an IT security tool like Apollo. It handles time-consuming security tasks like password resets.

4) Make The Business Case For New IT Security Projects

With your newly improved IT security technology, your security staff will have more capacity. Don’t waste this opportunity! Instead, review your gaps and wish list of projects. Which of those project ideas would produce the most benefit to college IT security? Pick one or two ideas, define them with a business case, and get started.

5) Schedule Your Next In-Depth IT Security Review

Six months from now, your college will face new IT security challenges. That means your current assessment will need to be refreshed. Your final step is to plan for the future! Make a note on your calendar to revisit and review your IT security program in 6-12 months. Save a link to this post as a reference to guide you through the process.

Keeping Students Safe Starts NowProactively improving your IT security technology, processes and staff capabilities are critical to keeping your college safe. If you need help winning support to buy new security technology, check out our post: Get Your SSO Software Project Funded With a Business Case.

Written by Nelson Cicchitto