Dec 20 2023

How Should Higher Education Institutions Prioritize Security Spending?

As institutions defend against thousands of cyberattacks every week, how they spend on security matters.

As the education sector faces over 2,500 cyberattacks per organization each week, cybersecurity remains a major focus for higher education institutions. In fact, it’s the top issue on EDUCAUSE’s 2024 priority list. And while IT departments everywhere know the value of cybersecurity, financial resources can be limited. So, when it comes to defending their data and networks, how higher education institutions prioritize security spending grows in importance.

Strengthen Security in Areas Where a Breach Would Be Most Costly

Cybersecurity breaches are costly, and this cost isn’t limited to the ransoms that half of higher education organizations pay to get encrypted data back after a breach. Between the re-installment and upgrading of security measures, possible legal fees, and other expenses, it can add up: These organizations spend an average of $1.42 million to recover from a ransomware attack. When deciding what areas of cybersecurity to invest in, first identify the areas where a breach would be most costly.

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One of those areas is endpoint security. Human error is involved in over 80 percent of breaches, making the protection of user data at the endpoint priority No. 1. In higher ed, this user data can involve Social Security numbers, banking details, medical records and other personal information that can absolutely not be compromised. A breach of such information could result in a lawsuit being brought against the institution.

However you slice it, a cybersecurity breach will be costly. But by prioritizing cybersecurity measures in areas that could incur the most expenses in a breach, this cost can be mitigated.

Make Sure You Optimize Your Security Remediation Plan

Despite best efforts, data breaches still happen. In fact, 74 percent of attacks on colleges and universities prove successful. So, while IT departments make every effort to prevent a breach, they also must be prepared for when they happen. How quickly can you remediate and get restored? IT departments must have a plan for this.

Remediation is multifaceted, involving data recovery and backup alongside other elements of cyber resiliency. It’s all about getting back up and running in the wake of a cyberattack. If your cybersecurity is a car, remediation centers on how fast you can change a flat tire and get back on the road.

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Higher education currently has the slowest recovery time of any sector, with 40 percent of institutions taking over one month to recover from a ransomware attack. Security retainers, such as those offered by CDW, can help with this, connecting IT departments with relevant engineers and other security professionals who can help them get back online. Regardless of who they engage with, IT departments need dedicated partners in place in the event of a cyberattack. They also need to ensure that the security stack is in compliance with university and state standards.

The cost of not having a good incident response plan will almost certainly be higher than the cost of ensuring you have that remediation plan in place. And this cost won’t just be financial; there will also be a reputational component. In this way, having a remediation plan is equally as important as having an initial security plan in place.

Stay Informed About Emerging Threats and Solutions

The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, and dozens of new solutions become available each day. As such, it can be beneficial to have different firms perform audits of your cybersecurity plans on a regular basis.

RELATED: A sound cyber resilience strategy can ensure operational continuity.

Different people and organizations will read things differently based on their respective knowledge bases. So, if you want to be exposed to the most information about your vulnerabilities and how to best address them, it’s a good practice to get multiple sets of eyes on your strategy. Bringing in partners such as CDW to track emerging threats and solutions and advise on best-in-class solutions can help make sure that your most valuable asset — your data — is secure.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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