Universities have been urged to put processes in place to deal with the ongoing threat of cybercrime. According to law firm Sheppard Mullin, higher education institutions hold large quantities of valuable data relating to their students, such as personal and financial details. Furthermore, they possess information relating to donors, applicants and members of staff.
Sheppard Mullin believes this is making universities increasingly attractive targets for cyber hackers. However, the firm is worried that many institutions are failing to respond to this threat and are not taking adequate precautions to safeguard data.
“Universities cannot afford to pretend cybercrime won’t happen to them,” the company said. “For institutions with health records, the financial costs can be even greater, due to the high value of health records on the internet’s black market, the ‘Dark Web’.”
Sheppard Mullin also pointed out that the financial impact could be the least of a university’s problems if it falls victim to a data breach.
Indeed, the firm stated that an institution would receive widespread bad publicity, which could jeopardise its efforts to secure research funding from corporate partners.
“Furthermore, students, parents and donors could lose confidence in a university where personal information has been compromised due to its own negligence.”
For major research institutions holding valuable IP, health records, and grants for sensitive research, having a cybersecurity prevention and remediation plan is more than just a good idea, it’s an absolute must,” Sheppard Mullin said.
The firm urged universities to adopt a holistic approach to security that encompasses every aspect of its operations, from human resources and physical security to legal and IT and technology. Higher education institutions were also encouraged to test their current vulnerabilities and seek advice on how to reduce them effectively.