The IT Team Can’t Do It Alone—Cybersecurity Is Everyone’s Responsibility

Higher education institutions use lots of data every day. Payroll information, health insurance information, payment card information, and student information that includes financial aid information are just a few of the most sensitive data elements that are shared. These data elements are shared within institutions and with the vendors we do business with daily. It is not just IT departments that need to understand the information security requirements needed to protect these data. Every department that uses data needs to understand how to properly secure the data entrusted to it. Information security is a shared responsibility, and we offer the following tips to share with your campus community.

Did you know?

In 2017 the education industry (which includes K–12 and higher education institutions) had 7,837,781 records breached in 35 events. To put that into perspective, the healthcare industry had 6,058,989 records breached in 428 events, and the retail industry had 123,652,526 records beached across 33 events. (See Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Chronology of Data Breaches, 2017 data.)

More than half of the breaches in the education sector were caused by activities directly attributable to human error, including lost devices, physical loss, and unintended disclosure (see figure 1). These breaches were arguably preventable through basic information security protection safeguards.

bar chart showing types of security breaches among educational institutions
Figure 1. Types of security breaches among educational institutions

What can you do every day to protect data?

There are very few, if any, verticals such as higher education that transmit, process, access, and share such varying sensitive data elements. There is not a “one size fits all” blueprint for information security controls that all institutions can follow. Yet all campus members have a responsibility to know basic information security protections to safeguard data and prevent those data from being mishandled:

  • Update your computing devices: Ensure updates to your operating system, web browser, and applications are being performed on all personal and institution-issued devices. If prompted to update your device, don’t hesitate—do it immediately.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: Whether for personal use or work, two-factor authentication can prevent unauthorized access even if your login credentials are stolen or lost.
  • Create really strong and unique passwords: Create unique passwords for all personal and work accounts. In today’s environment, one of the best ways to create a really strong password is to use a password manager for all of your accounts. A password manager will alleviate the burden of having to memorize all the different complex passwords you’ve created by managing them all in one “vault” and locking that vault with a single master password.
  • Protect your devices: Using biometrics or six-digit passcodes on smartphones and tablets is critical to keeping curious minds from accessing personal information, work email, or retail/banking applications. It also helps protect your device if you lose or misplace it.
  • Understand where, how, and to whom you are sending data: Many breaches occur because of “oopsie moments” where we accidentally post sensitive information publicly, mishandle or send to the wrong party via publishing online, or send sensitive information in an email to the wrong person. Taking care to know how you are transmitting or posting data is critical.

Getting ready to send data to a vendor or sign a contract? With more and more services moving to the cloud, higher education institutions have an additional obligation to ensure that third parties are protecting our most sensitive information. If you or your department is looking to purchase or adopt a service or technology that uses institutional data, it is imperative that you include information technology at the beginning of the project or contract process to help ensure that data are properly protected. To determine whether or not IT should be involved in the vendor/contract process, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the project (and in-scope technologies) involve the handling or storage of personal data (e.g., student data, employee data, donor data, research data, or financial data)?
  • Does the project (and in-scope technologies) involve the handling or storage of personal data that is regulated by government entities or has special contractual obligations to a third party (e.g., contract sponsored for research)?
  • Is there transfer of any institutional data from an institution-owned system or device to a third-party vendor-contracted system or device?
  • Does the project involve acquiring/implementing/developing software, services, or components that your institution has not previously deployed?
  • Does the project involve providing a new data feed to an existing campus partner?
  • Does the project involve accepting card payments in any way?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” collaborate with your IT department at the beginning of the project to ensure that institutional data are properly protected.

Campus Security Awareness Campaign 2019

This post is part of a larger campaign designed to support security professionals and IT communicators as they develop or enhance their security awareness plans. The campaign is brought to you by the Awareness and Training Working Group of the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC).


Information Security To Go!

From Stay Safe Online’s Wireless Safety Tips for Travelers

Many people love the adventure that traveling provides: meeting new people, seeing new places, and having new experiences are part of the allure. Technology makes it easier than ever to satisfy our wanderlust. We can use our connected devices to discover the exotic locales we wish to visit, book tickets on planes and trains, practice driving virtually, and seamlessly navigate once we get to our final destination. For all this ease that technology brings, we should prepare our technology for travel as carefully as we plan our travel itineraries.

Travel tips

  • Back-up your data! Backing up your data ensures that you won’t lose information if your device is lost or stolen. Consider encrypting your data as well, but check with your IT support staff first about how best to implement encryption.
  • Protect your devices with a strong password or lengthy passcode. Sometimes devices get lost or stolen, even when we are being careful. By protecting your device with a passcode or lengthy password, you make it harder for your device to be used and data to be accessed by others.
  • Make sure your devices and applications are up to date. Keep your applications and devices up to date and patched. This helps protect your device and data from security vulnerabilities and threats.
  • Just say no to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Having a wireless connection is almost a necessity for the modern traveler. However, using an unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspot can allow others to view the contents of your electronic activity. Never access your sensitive financial accounts from an unsecured network. If you must access sensitive data from an unsecured network, be sure that you use a VPN service.
  • Double-check your MFA settings. Many of us rely on multifactor authentication (MFA) to secure both personal and work-related accounts. Be sure that you know how (or if) that will work in the countries that you are visiting. For instance, if your MFA relies on SMS, be sure that you will be able to receive that message in the destination that you are visiting. If the option is available to you, consider using a physical token option to ensure you’ll be able to login to your accounts.
  • Update your physical location with your password vault. Many people use password vaults to manage all of their account passwords. Don’t be surprised if your password vault requires additional verification steps when logging into it from a location that is not in your home country. (After all, we count on these vaults to be secure!) Check the vendor documentation or your account settings to make sure that there are no country restrictions or settings that you need to change before your trip. Also double-check that you’re able to access your recovery/secondary email address just in case there is an issue.
  • Consider leaving your daily devices at home. If you are traveling to a location where you are concerned about your individual privacy rights, consider leaving your primary mobile device at home and purchasing a replacement device to take with you instead. Put only the apps, services, and data that you need for that trip on the device. Some businesses and colleges and universities offer programs where a traveler can check out a “clean laptop” when traveling for business purposes. Using these types of devices help limit any exposure of your personal data. Check your data plan as well. A “burner phone” or car GPS may be cheaper.
  • Be smart about posting on social media. It is always fun to post vacation pictures in the moment, but online postings on social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) can let other people know that you are not at home and that your home may be empty. Posting vacation pictures on social media once you are safely home helps protect your physical belongings.
  • Use hotel safes to protect your technology. Here’s another place where there is an overlap between online safety and physical safety. Just like you would put your passport, jewelry, and money in a hotel safe, consider using that safe to hold your electronic devices when you are not carrying them with you. Not only are the devices themselves expensive to replace, your personal data contained in the device can be irreplaceable (especially if you skipped the first tip on this list).
  • Remember your adapters! Make sure you have power adapters that will work with three-prong plugs and that they fit the country’s outlets. Some travel adapters only accept two-prong plugs. (If you’re attending a conference, you may be able to borrow a charging cable temporarily.) Outlets also vary, even, for example, between the UK and Ireland. Your technology gadgets are not very helpful when they run out of charge or cannot be powered on. Charge and take a portable battery pack.
  • Mind your voltage! Like plug types, different parts of the world use different voltages. Make sure that your technology devices can run on the voltage used at your destination. Getting shocked with 220V is not the same as 110V.

As surely as you can reduce wrinkles in your clothing with careful packing, so too can you avoid the most common technology travel woes by preparing before you leave home.

 

From The Barefoot Nomad’s How Not to Fry Your Smartphone Overseas: A Quick Guide

Campus Security Awareness Campaign 2019

This post is part of a larger campaign designed to support security professionals and IT communicators as they develop or enhance their security awareness plans. The campaign is brought to you by the Awareness and Training Working Group of the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC).


Fall 2019 Information for Students

We hope you had a great summer! Michigan Tech IT wants to keep you informed with things we’ve updated over the past few months.

AppsAnywhere

We have implemented the use of AppsAnywhere to make lab software available in our Windows Labs. AppsAnywhere makes software available to Windows computers through its web-based Application Catalog. It will improve your computer lab experience by maintaining software availability without allocating system resources for software applications you don’t need. It also allows Michigan Tech IT to efficiently update programs.

System Drives Upgraded to SSDs

We have upgraded system drives on our lab systems from standard hard drives to Solid State Drives (SSDs). Greater than 90% of systems now have SSDs.

Duo “Remember Me” Update

We have implemented changes to profiles that allow Duo’s remember me feature. Selecting the checkbox for Duo’s “Remember me for 30 days” option now works on lab and classroom computers.

Knowledge Base

With the help of our customers, we’ve improved our online support center. Our Knowledge Base (KB) has instant answers to common IT issues like printing, wireless, passwords and more. You can browse articles by category or search by keyword. For more detailed information, visit our blog post on how to use the new KB.

Accessible Technology

Michigan Tech IT wants everyone to have access to the technology resources we provide. We follow accessible technology guidelines and procedures to make sure that individuals with visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive, and other disabilities can use our technologies without barriers. Please visit the Accessible Technology website for more information. If you do encounter a technology barrier, please complete the Barrier Reporting form. If you are a student with a disability, please reach out to Student Disability Services.

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