Cybersecurity Priorities for Tight Higher Ed Budgets

Bruce Macdonald

April 20, 2021

Colleges and universities have no shortage of challenges when it comes to cybersecurity.  Higher education has particularly complex requirements for identity and access management (IAM) with overlapping roles for students, faculty, and staff, plus a decentralized architecture with frequently disparate systems across schools, departments, etc.

Then there’s the one challenge that makes all of these hurdles even more difficult to overcome, budgets. Yes, even as cyberattacks in higher education continue to rise, the investment in protecting against them remains insufficient. It’s a no-win situation with strapped IT teams doing what they can with what they’re given. As long as schools are expected to do more with less, they need to prioritize as best they can, and focus on the most critical components of IAM. 

Move On from Legacy and Homegrown Solutions

Due in part to limited budgets (along with siloed structures and processes) many colleges and universities are working with legacy and homegrown solutions they have been using  for years. These are typically inefficient and prone to human error, and all-too-often the mastery of these systems lies with one person or a small group of people, due to their homegrown nature. If or when that person leaves, another vulnerability is created.

That’s why schools need to prioritize updating legacy IAM systems and processes. With one system to bring all of their critical actions together, schools will be better equipped to combat future cyberthreats.

Automate Key Processes

Even with the growing complexity of cyberattacks, the number one vulnerability for colleges and universities is human error. Whether it’s weak passwords set by end users or misassigned permissions on the administrative side, nine times out of 10, hackers breach systems by exploiting these relatively small mistakes.

How can schools combat this? Automation. By making the most critical IAM processes automatic, schools remove a significant number of opportunities for mistakes, drastically decreasing potential vulnerabilities. Plus, automation saves untold amounts of time for IT teams, allowing them to focus on further fortifying your systems against future threats.

Take the First Steps Toward Zero Trust

The future of cybersecurity is the Zero Trust model, a structure that is built on not automatically trusting anything inside or outside the system. While colleges and universities may not yet be able to sprint towards this architecture, taking critical first steps, like network and inventory audits, can set them up for success. 

Investing in an IAM solution that enables strong integration (for input and output) will allow schools to easily scale up and add tools and features as they’re ready for them, without falling into the trap of a homegrown solution again.

Make Cybersecurity a Higher Ed Priority

Ultimately, schools need to start giving cybersecurity a budget that’s reflective of the mounting threats. However, in the meantime, making the most of the budgets they have by focusing on these critical priorities will allow schools to continue to keep their most critical user data secure.

Learn more about the IAM challenges higher education is facing and how automation can help schools overcome them in this free resource: Higher Education IT Leaders Are Looking to Complement Access Governance With Automation.

Download the Free Resource