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Higher education sector's poor response to cyber threats laid bare in EfficientIP report

The 2018 EfficientIP Global DNS Report shines a light on how ill-prepared the higher education sector is for handling cyber threats

The higher education sector has one of the worst track records for dealing with potential cyber threats, according to EfficientIP’s 2018 Global DNS threat report.

The research details how 73% of institutions took over three days to apply a patch once notified of a Domain Name System (DNS) breach, and highlights how the cost per DNS-based attack jumped 68% to $690,000 in the education sector last year alone.

As universities across the country open their doors for the new academic year, students will inevitably arrive with an array of IP-enabled devices that have the potential to undermine the IT networks that support them, said Dennis Borin, senior solutions architect at EfficientIP.

“Campuses are hosting everything from laptops to smartphones, which make it a challenge for the university’s IT department to assume those devices are secure,” he said.

“In the case of a network attack, multiple deices will make it difficult to respond instantly and with the right countermeasures.”

In the wake of these findings, the report calls for a review of how universities identify, analyse and block DNS-based threats, saying network teams are stretched and need support in managing and protecting this critical element of their IT services.

The company also goes on to recommend five practices universities should undertake to protect their DNS.

Read more about DNS attacks

These range from incorporating the DNS into a global network security solution – making it easier to recognise malicious activity and inform the broader security ecosystem – to augmenting the threat visibility using real-time, context-aware DNS transaction analytics for threat detection.

The idea is this will allow the system to detect all threat types, prevent data theft, and help meet regulatory compliance such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the US Cloud Act.

The report also highlights the rising cost per attack – and shows the increasing volume of DNS-based attacks are not limited to the higher education sector – with the number of organisations suffering data theft via DNS increasing from 28% last year to 33% in 2018.

Many more organisations (40%) have also experienced cloud server downtime as a result of DNS attacks. By 2021, it is expected over 90% of all enterprises will be using multiple cloud services and platforms, meaning this number has the potential to increase dramatically if measures are not put in place.

Read more on Security policy and user awareness

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