Some UK universities have stated that cyber attacks on them have doubled in the last two years. Given the developmental research that goes on at many universities; its power and value, I am surprised it has only doubled. Warwick University raised some good points in an article for the Coventry Telegraph, when a spokesperson pointed out that not only is the research valuable but the researchers working on it will be globally based. If you take this point to its logical conclusion it means that there may well be inconsistent protection of the research, inconsistent storage or management, and most obviously, varying environments. All of this can impact the security of that information. Depending upon the nature of the research, you could be facing nation-state sponsored hacking. This is as well as the common or garden hackers looking to sell the data, hacktivists trying to reveal, distort or destroy the data and script kiddies looking for kudos from their peers by accessing and bragging about what they have found.
Even from physical perspective, Universities are complex places to secure. Multi-site, sometimes across very large areas, but still sharing systems and networks that may be accessed in a variety of ways and potentially across the globe. Even things like air conditioning or lighting, might not be controlled by someone physically on the site and functions like Facility Management may well be outsourced with certain functions being managed remotely, potentially by maintenance portals etc. These are dots that need to be joined because these systems as well as the networks and data centres that house the research data, are potential targets or maybe routes in for criminals and other undesirables.
Criminals know that there is little or no point trying to ‘storm the keep’, when it comes to stealing data. In other words, the crown jewels may well be protected with a variety of methods that make it very difficult to attack head on. So why bother doing that? Most don’t. They will try to hack the people to get access via stolen login credentials or they will look for another vulnerability to exploit, perhaps in one of those systems that now sit on the internet in order to be managed non-locally, such as some of the FM functions I mentioned earlier. Criminals join those dots to find the easiest route in every time. So if universities are looking to harden their security around research they had better consider the dots they haven’t joined in all areas of their IP estate…
- Posted by Ellie Hurst
- On 12th September 2017
- 0 Comments