Monthly Archives: August 2013

Here are some examples of why educational institutions are still actively fighting cyber attacks

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While students laze around on summer vacation, educational institutions are still actively fighting cyber attacks.

Many universities average at least a million cyber threats per week. A recent major attack was on Stanford University, and although the damage was likely minor, students were requested to change their passwords.

Western University, in London, Ontario, has also been the target of recent phishing attempts. 1092 students received emails that appeared to be credible, requesting student usernames and passwords. What was unique about this attack was how personalized the email was. Jeff Grieve, the ITS director at Western University, said that it was a “very sophisticated and well-organized attack specifically targeted at Western.” Due to the email’s authenticity, some students actually responded to the phishing scam.

Cyber Security is a rising concern across all educational institutions, from elementary to post-secondary. It is not just attacks directly on a school, but the threats that come with BYOD as well. Five counties in Norway have recently tried implementing BYOD policies into their educational systems for both teachers and students. This gives the students the opportunity to learn wherever and whenever they’d like, and where they are most comfortable. By having BYOD policies, students would never have to worry about doing trivial things like transferring homework between personal and school devices. 

With the rise of BYOD in schools, there is a growing urgency its security. University of California-Berkley’s cyber security budget has doubled since last year, and was already in the millions of dollars. It provides students with the peace of mind that their sensitive information is safe.

Back in January, I was interviewed by the Montreal Global News to discuss the Dawson College student hacking into their system, uncovering major security flaws. The student, Hamad Al-Khabaz, says that what he found was so bad that “somebody could’ve ruined somebody’s life.” The Dawson College director-general Richard Filion acknowledged that Al-Khabaz had found the flaw, but said he was expelled after he repeatedly tried to gain access to areas of the college information system where he didn’t have authorization. 

While Al-Khabaz should not have been hacking without permission, his discovery could have been lethal for the college had the information fallen into the wrong hands. With the rise of BYOD in education across all levels, it is important to remember that schools possess all possible kinds of vulnerable information. Educational institutions need to invest in cyber security to keep this data safe.

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About the author

Terry Cutler is a co-founder of Digital Locksmiths, an IT security and data defense firm based in Montreal and serves as the company’s Chief Technology Officer and Certified Ethical Hacker. Prior to joining Digital Locksmiths, he was a Premium Support Engineer for Novell in Canada where he analyzed network vulnerabilities and transitioned security technologies into production. In addition to being a licensed private investigator in Canada, Terry is an internationally known author, trainer, speaker, and security consultant, Terry has appeared in numerous national television and radio programs and is very active on the conference circuit. Follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryPCutler and connect with him on LinkedIn