Academia’s cyber preparedness (or lack thereof) has received less media attention than that of certain retailers and financial institutions, but nonetheless the cyber risks confronting universities are pervasive and alarming. Consider recent breaches suffered by educational institutions. At the University of Maryland, an outside source gained access to a secure records database that held information dating back to 1998, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and university identification numbers for over 300,000 people affiliated with the university on two campuses.
During a data breach of the Maricopa County Community College District, the names, social security numbers, and financial information of more than 2.4 million former and current students, employees, and vendors (from as far back as 30 years ago) were exposed on the internet. These security breaches are not isolated incidents; since 2005, educational institutions have suffered more than 700 reported incidents of security breach.
A majority of recent security breaches result from sophisticated, targeted cyber attacks. The Ponemon Institute, a leading research organization concerned with cyber issues, reported that forty-four percent of this nation’s breaches were caused by malicious or criminal attacks, as opposed to a system glitch or human error, and this percentage has increased in recent years. Indeed, the University of Wisconsin has reported approximately 90,000 to 100,000 attempts per day, from China alone, to penetrate its system. The day-to-day cyber threats facing universities include malicious software (malware), phishing, infrastructure attacks, social networking targeting, and peer-to-peer (P2P) information leakage.
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