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Higher Ed Must Lock Down Data Security

Higher education rivals only the healthcare industry in housing personally identifiable data. Consider these tactics for smart planning.

Assess what everyone sees

What is connecting to the network and transmitting data? You need to identify the ancillary, one-off applications on your campus. In a post on NetworkWorld.com's Community site, Jon Oltsik writes, "[software vulnerabilities result from] 1) internally-developed software where developers may lack the skills or motivation to write secure code, and 2) Web applications where rapid development and functionality trump security concerns."

In higher education, homegrown products are often the result of a lack of service provided, perceived or actual. Security risks need to be eliminated, and redundant applications should be brought into the fold of large-scale enterprise systems -- if there is any question about it, it is not worth the risk.

Easy as 1-2-3? Sure, as long as you present a strong strategic plan alongside continuous communication with your campus community on why the focus on security needs to be pervasive. Some may ask, "So what's the big deal? Has there actually been a breach?" It's about risk. Every effort needs to be made to mitigate the risk against a security breach. It's also about cost. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost per compromised record in an education environment is $142.

And that represents only the immediate dollar cost. A security breach may affect student retention, enrollment, and general confidence in campus security. If we as an educational institution fail to keep our data safe, how safe are our students? Those thoughts cross the minds of concerned parents.

The technology forecast looks more exciting than ever. But with increased efficiency, service, and connectivity comes increased risk. Batten down the hatches today for smoother sailing in the future.

Database administrators are the caretakers of an organization's most precious asset -- its data -- but rarely do they have the experience and skills required to secure that data. Indeed, the goals of DBAs and security pros are often at odds. That gap must be bridged in order for organizations to protect data in an increasingly threat-ridden environment. In the Dark Reading How Enterprises Can Use Big Data To Improve Security report, we examine what DBAs should know about security, as well as recommend how database and security pros can work more effectively together. (Free registration required.)

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