The Internet was initially developed to be used in an academic, knowledge-sharing setting, but quickly grew and evolved to become the behemoth it is today – an indispensable tool for businesses, governments and the general public. As more and more of our private data and intellectual property found its home on the Internet, so grew the incentive for criminals and hackers to find ways to intercept that information and use it for ill intentioned schemes.
As a result, a huge industry developed around securing networks and building defense systems to protect institutions from virtual robbery and terrorism. But as our networking needs become broader and more complex, existing security protocols and programs are proving inadequate to ensure the security of large, multifaceted networks, especially in the face of new federal security mandates for educational institutions.
Universities are among the organizations in most dire need of additional security, as students have come to hold exacting standards for network speed, reliability and safety. A network hosting students’ personal information, financial details, academic work, health records, research and transcripts should absolutely be shielded against infiltration, but institutions of higher education are often slow to adapt cutting-edge security measures that can stand up to the rapidly evolving and and improving practices used by hackers. This is often due to the more bureaucratic decision-making process in these institutions – decisions about budget allocations, especially for expensive IT upgrades, can take a long time to clear the convoluted web of discussions, approvals and sign-offs that are a given in university administration.
Another reason why it’s difficult to achieve adequate security systems in higher education is that a network catering to students must be open to regularly admitting new members and also to being accessible from the multitudinous personal devices that each new student or visitor brings to campus. Universities, unlike enterprises, are continuously under threat from viruses and corruptions that may be present on each new device they register to the network.
As a result of the necessarily relaxed security protocols at universities, many schools have been used by hackers over the last few years as platforms for attacks on other companies, as was the case in a major security breach at the New York Times several years ago. Fearing bad press or legal complications, universities now have even more reason to ensure the security of their networks.
Here’s how some universities are developing network architecture that offers the high quality connection users expect, the flexibility to be able to interact and connect with visitors from all over the world, and the security parameters needed to protect all of the sensitive information hosted on their networks.
Smart Design. Some universities have made efforts to partition their networks as often as possible so that access to information is strictly limited to relevant personnel. For example, admissions officers would be the only network users with an access point to applicant data, while they themselves may be restricted from seeing student information once they have matriculated. One issue with this strategy is that because so much of university administration overlaps, it may often be difficult to draw the lines on what constitutes a specific group’s relevant domain.
Hybrid Cloud Solutions. Cloud solutions have long been a standard in universities, but many newcomers are opting instead for hybrid cloud solutions that employ both the public and the private cloud. This strategy improves redundancy in the case of a network failure on one side, and allows for better data partitioning.
Private Fiber Networks. Private fiber optic networks – also known as dark fiber – allow for unlimited broadband and fast data transfer on an exclusively point-to-point network. Many universities are choosing dark fiber because it can be readily connected to from any device, yet eliminates the possibility for interference from outside parties.
As universities develop innovative solutions for managing their unique networking needs, businesses and enterprises who are beginning to require the same flexibility and openness to outside devices and users are following their lead. Universities are becoming the new models for bring-your-own-device networks, and those who lead the pack are standing out as the harbingers of a new era in network security. Learn more about how institutions of higher education, such as Soka University, are securing their networks here.