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Why Identity Management for Education Sector has Become Crucial

IAM for Education

Identity management for education has witnessed a dramatic change in the first half of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, it resulted in the shutdown of educational institutes worldwide, with over 1.2 billion children officially out of their physical classrooms.

Interestingly, there is a notable increase in e-learning from the last couple of months. Classes are conducted remotely and on digital platforms. Now, that’s a massive amount of traffic to keep up with.

Because significant amounts of highly sensitive data are involved, they make profitable targets for hackers—contact details, academic records, Social Security numbers, financial information, and health data.

Many educational institutions are already facing security crises and trying their best to sustain. Providing a secure learning environment has become a high priority.

Recent Stats of Cyberattack on Students

  • According to Darktrace’s study cited on Straitstimes.com, more than 100 Singapore-based customers face 16 times more attacks on the educational institution than other healthcare and retail organizations.
  • In June 2020, hackers attacked the servers at San Francisco School of Drugs College of California. They demanded a ransom of more than $1 million USD to get back the accessibility to their data.
  • Professional hackers breached the ed-tech platform Unacademy and exposed 22 million user accounts on the dark web. In May 2020, Cyble Inc. stumbled upon a threat actor selling the user database for $2,000. 
  • In May 2020, another online learning application based in Canada, OneClass, suffered a data breach that exposed data from more than 1 million students across North America.
  • In May 2020, a Spanish e-Learning platform 8Belts suffered a data breach that affected and exposed the data of 150,000 e-learners on the platform. 

Security Challenges in the Education Industry

By now, it is pretty evident that the education sector has become a lucrative target of cybercriminals. 

One of the critical reasons schools are targeted, is the extensive data they maintain about students and staff, including personally identifiable information (PII), health details, and financial data. These records are a hot commodity on the dark web and are sold in millions for identity theft and fraud.

Other security challenges faced by schools, universities, and colleges in the education sector include:

Limited to no dedicated IT resources

A cybersecurity challenge faced by most educational institutions when defending their networks from threats is a shortage of dedicated IT resources—possibly pointing to the lack of funds to invest in cybersecurity. 

Another area that could put schools at risk of attack is the legacy IT infrastructure. IT departments must ensure that older equipment and software have the most recent upgrades, or that if manufacturers no longer support them, institutes should voluntarily install new versions.

The unsettling BYOD culture

Institutes allow students to store data on their own devices, tablets, or laptops. Since they work on the same project in laboratories, in classrooms and at their residences, they carry their data on portable drives and connect to whichever computer is available. 

Most students don’t invest in paid antivirus software or anti-malware versions. Also, they download free, pirated apps. So, every time they plug their infected USB into the institute’s network, the whole system gets affected. 

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Potential open network vulnerabilities

Many educational institutions advocate a culture of an open network for students and allow any device to connect within the premises. It is done to promote freedom of free information. 

But then, it has its downside too. Open network means that access is not monitored correctly, making it an easy target for cybercriminals to enter the network and wreak havoc.  

Lack of privileged access management

The majority of educational institutions lack a proper privileged access management system. Role-based access controls (RBAC) offer employees their access to different systems and data sources according to their responsibilities within the institution. 

Privileged accounts, like administrative accounts in schools, provide access to specific users that hold liability for critical systems and student’s sensitive information.

The ever-changing student lifecycle

With each passing year, the specific role of students in the organization changes. They are promoted to the next class, some become alumni, and some may become assistants to teachers or become teachers themselves. Some students may also hold multiple responsibilities at the same time.

Educational institutions should authenticate these new identities as soon as they transition to the new role to avoid the burden of a security breach.

Type of Cyber Attacks Faced by the Edtech Sector in Managing Identities

Higher educational institutes like colleges and universities store higher volumes of sensitive data related to research and other assignments. Moreover, all institutions (—for that matter) store critical alumnus, faculty, and students’ data. These are gold mines for intruders to penetrate the networks and pose cyberthreats

Following are a few significant ways hackers attack the Edtech sector:

Spoofing

A spoofing attack, in context to cybersecurity, happens when someone pretends to be someone else to gain trust to access sensitive network data and spread malware in the process. Spoofing attacks can occur in many different ways, like the widespread email spoofing attacks usually deployed as part of phishing campaigns or caller ID spoofing attacks that are also used to commit fraud. 

In educational institutions, attackers target IP address, Domain Name System ( DNS) servers, or Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) services.

Password Hijacking

Password hijacking, as the term suggests, is a type of attack where hackers gain unauthorized access to the user’s login credentials. What’s intriguing is hackers do not always adopt a highly technical and sophisticated approach to hack accounts. In many cases, they guess common phrases, such as “qwerty,” which ranks high on the list of worst passwords

The rest of the time, hackers make use of other methods like brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, credential stuffing attacks, etc. to hack into the educational institute’s network.

Credential Cracking

Cracking of passwords occurs when a hacker deliberately targets a user or a business. They usually send a significant amount of time devising the right kind of attack to break into the victims’ network.

Speaking of which, while the victim of credential cracking can be any random user, the effort behind it also means that the victim has been deliberately targeted. It might be a business account, a company’s social media accounts, or a premium educational institute with famous alumni.

Phishing

Phishing is a malware attack that tricks victims into revealing their valuable and often sensitive data. Also referred to as a “phishing scam,” attackers target login credentials of users, financial data (such as credit cards and bank account details), business data, and everything that could be of high value to hackers. 

Premium educational institutions have forever been at the risk of phishing attacks, primarily because of their high-value sensitive research data, student-critical data, faculty, or alumni data.

Man-in-the-middle

A man-in-the-middle attack happens when the cybercriminal intercepts a conversation between the user and the application. You can portray it as the cyber equivalent of eavesdropping done to impersonate one of the hosts. 

The hacker may, in this case, plant requests that seem to come from a legitimate source. For example, ask for alumni data that is otherwise deemed confidential.

Data Risk and Vulnerabilities in Online Education Apps and Websites

Identity-Management-for-Education

Software applications – apps – are common on campuses nowadays. From in-class polling devices to driving university-wide learning management systems, educational institutions are swiftly adapting to the new trend. 

These apps and online platforms play a key role in assisting students and helping modern colleges to operate smoothly by collecting data from faculty and students alike.

However, these data can be highly sensitive. Sometimes, they include data from students’ personal preferences, their knowledge base, and projects they submit through these online portals.

Therefore, there will always be a danger looming when new technologies and applications are widely implemented across campuses, and every student or lecturer is expected to use them.

A lot of these educational apps may be useful. The school, college, or university faculty may use a few of those as supplemental instructional resources or advocate for additional skills practice.

There is a catch, though! Newbie techies or tech start-ups build most of the new applications and courses launched with little to no background in children’s privacy laws.

Free apps are more likely to collect user data and monitor children’s behaviors to deliver targeted advertising. Moreover, there have been instances where even paid apps were accused of monitoring and using child data for unethical purposes. They collect PII and track precise location information, creating a severe threat to privacy.

Then again, apps that claim to be specially designed for educational purposes are not immune either. Some of these apps make money by selling advertising directly on the platform or trading students and faculties’ sensitive data such as ethnicity, affluence, religion, lifestyle, etc. to third parties.

Compliance Regulations for the Education Sector

With massive personal intellectual property at stake, hackers are willing to work even harder to break into educational institutions than other organizations. Failures in compliance can be extremely damaging, particularly with increased media attention.

Following are a few international compliance regulations that keep students’ data safe amidst the volatile criminal backdrop. 

  • FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA protects the privacy of student education records. They can inspect, review their data, and if need be, they can also request amendment of their education record.
  • FOIA: The Freedom of Information Act dictates the US government agencies such as public schools, colleges, and universities to make available copies of all records requested by the student regardless of the form or format. 
  • PPRA: The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment protects the rights of minority students. Under this law, students are required to consent from parents before participating in any survey or evaluation that deals with personal data.

How IAM Improves the Educational Experience for Students

The optimal digital experience for education institutions is the need of the hour. Delivering top-notch experiences to students puts the pressure on customer identity and access management (CIAM) providers to provide a secure platform for their data. 

Here how identity management for education enhances the user experience of students and faculty.

  • Automated access: An ideal modern IAM solution offers automated account provisioning for students, and faculty to complement their access requests, and deprovisioning needs. It eliminates the risk of human error and allows students to enjoy timely access to every resource they need. 
  • Self-service capabilities: It allows both students and faculty to manage their accounts. With an IAM solution, users need not approach the help desk to solve their issues. Instead, they can have them directly resolved on their own. Examples include resetting passwords or requesting for individual access. 
  • User-friendly frontend: With features like the single sign-on, all applications approved by the institute are placed under one portal. Students need only to remember a single login set, and they can enjoy access to multiple applications with a single click. 
  • Protect data privacy: Schools, colleges, and universities have to deal with large volumes of personal data along with other sensitive financial and sensitive data. If hacked, hackers sell these data on the dark web. An identity management solution ensures security via various means—they leverage data regulations, compliances, and authentication measures to cut off the bad guys at the roots. 
  • Manage alumni accounts: With identity management for education in place, schools and universities can easily continue to use their accounts and keep their student email addresses active even after graduating.

How Higher Education Sector Can Resolve Data Security Risk by Using the LoginRadius Identity Management Platform

Off late, there has been an amplified need for identity and access management in the education industry. LoginRadius, as a leading provider in its space, offers a number of a scalable, highly integrative set of tools to meet the growing requirement of the modern higher education sector. A few of the particular ones include:

New-age onboarding

The identity management platform allows institutes to create a central identity across all channels through single sign-on for students and faculty. It also offers modern and robust authentication methods such as multi factor authentication (MFA) with one-time passwords or security questions and more. 

LoginRadius allows smooth and seamless integration into systems through industry-approved standards like OpenID Connect, OAuth2, and SAML2.0. 

A clear control of permissions

Define the roles and permissions on who can access what content and when with LoginRadius. Colleges and universities can delegate admins to teachers, lecturers, and staff and assign their respective roles.

Besides, they can work with other faculties by adding users to their groups. Also, professors can divide their students into groups and assign permissions based on their projects.

Robust API security

Strengthen security and protect resources with a secure interface (APIs). It detects suspicious behavior within the system, and when the need arises demands a second factor of authentication. 

Furthermore, it offers excellent user experience, and with SSO on the hook, it encourages users to choose a strong password for their accounts. As a cloud-based identity management platform, LoginRadius is always updated with the latest security mechanisms.

Data compliance management

The identity platform is compliant with all major international data regulation policies, including the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA. To meet the high identity management of education requirements, it offers more transparency about accepted consents, secured access, and excellent user experience.

Industry-specific security certifications

The identity management solution is compatible with major security programs. Major certifications include OpenID for end-user identity verification, PCI DSS PCI SSC administered standard for fee and salary transactions, ISO 27001:2013, 2015 for information security, AICPA SOC 2 (Type II) for system-level privacy control, and ISAE 3000 for the protection of non-financial information. 

Other certifications include ISAE 3000, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, CSA CCM Level 1, Level 2, CIS Critical Security Controls, US Privacy Shield Complaint, and ISO/IEC 27018:2019.

Conclusion

Given this rapid upgrade in the classroom environment, experts are curious whether acceptance of online learning would continue to exist in the post-pandemic world, and whether such a move will affect the pressure of identity management on educational institutions.

If it does (which sure, will), LoginRadius will certainly complement the complex, and unique CIAM needs for schools, colleges, and universities across the globe.

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