September 24, 2020

A new era of security risks in education

For educators, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students has always been a critical priority – one that’s been seriously tested by the events of 2020. As well as the need to keep students safe and healthy, there’s now the looming, ever-increasing, and very real threat of cyberattack.

On its US website, Microsoft publishes a live tally of reported malware incidents by industry. Globally, education incidents are leading the pack, with a whopping 60% of devices experiencing an ‘encounter’ in the last 30 days.

The situation is dire for several reasons: the sudden and unexpected shift to large-scale digital learning means many educational institutions are very poorly protected from a security perspective, and are leaving their ‘doors’ wide open to cyberattack. When on campus, a student may be protected by the campus firewall and on-point security, but when using their device at home and connecting to the network remotely, all sorts of risks can (and do) arise.

There’s also the question of student welfare: without the right precautions in place, students are far more vulnerable to online predators, as well as an array of other attacks on their personal data.

And, of course, there’s the ever-increasing load on the IT team, which is charged with ensuring the ongoing security of the campus network and its potentially sensitive data. When security teams are under pressure, all sorts of vulnerabilities can be exposed, and broader opportunities for innovation are missed.

When it comes to security, what should educational institutions be focusing on right now?

Hard to control BYOD policies

While bring your own device (BYOD) policies can be appealing, from a security point of view, BYOD can be challenging and poses risks. This is particularly true when students are connecting to the network from an array of different devices – and doing so remotely.

IT teams need to review and ‘onboard’ each individual device and establish permissions for it to connect to the school’s network – a major time and administrative overhead. And without control over how a student uses their device while off the campus network, it can be an easy entry point for malware or other viruses when it reconnects.

Aruba’s ClearPass technology can help eradicate these problems, by putting control in users’ hands – enabling them to safely and securely configure devices for use on secure networks, within defined boundaries set by the IT team.

ClearPass even provides for device-specific security certificates, meaning users don’t need to repeatedly enter their login credentials throughout the day. The IT team simply sets the parameters, defining who can onboard devices, the type of devices they can onboard, and how many devices are allowed per person.

Remote network connectivity

The sudden surge in online learning necessitated by COVID-19 has also placed the network security of many educational institutions at risk.

When students connect to a school’s network on campus, they are protected by a firewall and other on-point security solutions. Now, many students need to connect remotely, posing a raft of security concerns.

Aruba Virtual Intranet Access (VIA) offering is a secure VPN service for students who need to connect to their school, university or college network while remote. VIA is available as a simple download for Google Android, Apple iOS, MacOS, Linux and Windows and enables students to enjoy fast, reliable and secure connectivity.

Unlike traditional VPNs which require dedicated hardware, VIA runs on existing Aruba secure infrastructure. In fact, it offers the option of military-grade security, meaning it can securely handle controlled unclassified, confidential and classified information.

The explosion in IoT devices

The number of IoT devices being installed on an educational institution’s network is increasing constantly – whether it’s a new on-campus security camera, a smartboard in a classroom, or a video projection system in the school hall.

For universities and colleges where students live on campus, these IoT devices can even include things like live gaming consoles.

As well as competing for network traffic, these devices are also potential entry points for cybercriminals. 83% of IoT devices now carry critical vulnerabilities2, opening the door for potential attack.

Despite these increasing risks, 66% of IT Managers say they have little or no ability to secure IoT devices3. This is where Aruba’s ClearPass technology can assist, by enabling IT teams to automatically control which people and devices can access the network according to a range of factors.

These criteria include a person’s role, the type of device they’re using, the device’s authentication method, the device’s health, any traffic patterns, a device’s location and even the time of day.

By doing so, ClearPass not only streamlines traffic on the network but also provides extremely robust security – controlling exactly which IoT devices are able to access the network, and for what reason.

Network visibility

One of the biggest challenges for IT teams at any educational institution is network visibility. The campus of a school, university or college can be vast, and needs to support potentially thousands of users and devices. Without a clear picture of who and what is accessing the network, security can be at risk.

With Aruba’s ClearPass technology, IT teams receive a clear, easy to understand view of their network via a dashboard. This includes information on authentication trends, profiled devices, guest data, onboarded devices, their endpoint health, and more. Administrators can also receive automated alerts and notifications if problems arise.

Contact a Network Specialist

To learn more about how Data#3 and Aruba can help you safeguard your school, university or college network, or to request a network assessment, get in touch.

1. Microsoft Security Intelligence – Global threat activity – Most affected industries. [Online] Available at
2. Cisco. 2018. Annual Cyber Security Report. [Online] Available at
3. Lunetta. 2019. IoT Widens the Security Gap. Now What? [Online] Available at