Chris Novak is Director of the Verizon Threat Research Advisory Center and a strategic cybersecurity adviser to multinational corporations and government agencies worldwide.
Few industries contend with the breadth and depth of challenges that are faced by college and university administrators and their technology staffs — especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Higher education technology departments have to ensure that highly transient populations of students have secure access to the platforms they need to enroll in classes; do their classwork; keep their bursar payments current; fund their campus debit card accounts to pay for meals and activities; and access other digital services. Faculty members need secure, reliable connectivity to create lessons and presentations and distribute, grade and return assignments. Add to that campus sporting facilities, research laboratories, libraries, dining halls, offices, and in many cases, hospitals and their staffs. All require technology support.
Educational institutions are also, unfortunately, a prime target for hackers. Reports of stolen credentials, gained through phishing attacks and compromised web applications, continue to plague colleges and universities, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. Even more disturbingly, the rate of ransomware attacks within the education sector has increased dramatically this past year; they now make up to 80% of reported malware-related incidents compared to 48% the prior year.
And cybersecurity has become even more complicated as schools are forced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, already-thin technology departments are scrambling to accommodate the surge in demand for remote services from students, faculty and researchers, while simultaneously responding to the accompanying surge in security risks.
While the security challenges around digital transformation and security remain formidable — as evidenced by this year’s EDUCAUSE list of top IT issues in higher education — there is a bright side.
Colleges and universities can take advantage of the lessons learned in the commercial sector, where a growing number of enterprises are realizing the benefits of engaging managed and professional services to support digital transformation initiatives and manage security.
Until recently, most college and university technology departments were able to operate and maintain the infrastructure and systems their schools relied upon. But the rapid evolution of cloud services, SD-WAN and mobile networks, APIs, containers and AI has created a more dynamic and complicated operating environment.
Additionally, in today’s highly competitive marketplace, there simply isn’t enough talent to go around. Many organizations are struggling to recruit, hire and retain top-level in-house IT staff.
As a result, retaining an experienced managed and professional services organization, particularly one capable of identifying and remediating hidden security vulnerabilities, can make strategic and economic sense. The right provider can bring multiple benefits to the table, including:
Skills on demand – Today’s leading managed and professional services providers work with a wide range of enterprise customers and leading-edge technologies. For their customers, that translates into a broader available bench of experts available on demand.
Smarter use of talent – By hiring a managed services organization to concentrate on foundational IT operations and security and a professional services teams to tackle specialized projects, colleges and universities can control costs and keep IT staff focused on providing critical connectivity for students, staff and teachers.
Scalable support – As higher education institutions adopt scalable infrastructure and software services platforms, they also need scalable support. Managed and professional services can help colleges and universities increase speed, flexibility and responsiveness, so they can better adjust to shifting needs and strategies.
Extended security – Perhaps most importantly, managed and professional services providers can help higher education institutions secure network operations and user security on premises and in the cloud.
As a global leader providing network backbone services worldwide, Verizon — along with its management and professional services teams — offers added strategic advantages to colleges and universities.
Verizon’s experience in monitoring and protecting our own networks from adversaries across the globe gives us an deep understanding of the types of threats that can impact colleges and universities.
That experience has also helped us develop scalable, repeatable business processes that can be put to work at colleges and universities to streamline digital transformation efforts and help reduce operating costs.
Finally, Verizon brings years of experience working with higher education institutions across the country. Our specialists understand the unique requirements and operating environments of colleges and universities and how to help modernize and secure them.
Keeping up with the ever-increasing complexity in today’s IT environment is incredibly challenging. Managed and professional services offer a strategic and cost-effective way forward for colleges and universities, to help improve agility, boost cybersecurity, reduce the workload for in-house IT and support tech modernization initiatives.
Find out more on how Verizon Professional and Managed Services can provide a full spectrum of digital and security solutions for your organization.
This article was produced by Scoop News Group for, and sponsored by, Verizon.