There are many reasons why someone may want to access university records. It’s known that while most students are cash poor, their possessions such as laptops and smartphones may be valuable. Someone could access tons of personal information such as intellectual property, research documents, financial documents, usernames, and passwords – the list is endless. And that doesn’t even include emails. Luckily, there are ways universities can take steps to mitigate the risks and prove due diligence. 

Look for weaknesses

Hackers look to exploit weaknesses in systems. Start with an inventory of what data your university holds. If you are not aware of what data you hold, you cannot mitigate the risks. You may want to start with the most sensitive data and work your way down. 

When you have done this, testing for vulnerabilities is the next step in the process. Internet-facing software can help universities uncover those vulnerabilities to prevent hackers from finding their way into the system.

One flaw can potentially infect multiple devices. Once a hacker uncovers one weakness, they could move through the network to uncover more. 

Adopt good practices

Start a program consisting of 5 stages: policy, implementation, monitoring, auditing, and response. 

Regarding response, preparing for possible breaches is the place to start (prevention is better than cure). Being prepared can save time, so it is wise to have press release templates ready (available online) in the event a breach might occur. Breaches can be stressful, particularly in large organizations, but it is important during this time to know the scope, date, time and potential victims of the breach.  

“The key members of staff should be able to manage and delegate operations and support a cross-functional team to manage the operations. Communication in large organizations is key,” explains Gilbert Adams, a tech writer at State Of Writing and BoomEssays. Starting from the top-down, any member of staff who handles data should be aware of how to handle it, how to keep it safe, internal policies (such as the university’s internal regulations), and local laws (such as GDPR in Europe). Ideally, staff should attend refresher courses on how to handle data. There should be a person of contact whom all data handlers can reach should they have any queries or if they think that there may have been a data breach or possible data breach.  

As well as internal regulations, think about third parties with whom your university shares data. Assessing a third-party vendor for possible flaws in their systems is just as important as assessing your own. Hackers could use third parties, such as unrelated web applications to access your data. Your IT department should be able to develop a network security plan to assess the risk. From there, they can implement a policy and start to monitor, audit and respond if necessary. 

Train staff

As mentioned above, all staff must ensure that good practices are being followed and are aware of how to handle data. They can only do this with enough training. Employee mistakes and deliberate misuse are some of the most common reasons for data breaches. “Regarding minimizing the risk of the latter, an audit may be a good place to start. Restricting staff access, only providing access at the level that is necessary, and requiring authorization from more than one staff member can prevent possible breaches at the lower levels,” writes John Stuart, a data expert at AustralianHelp and OXEssays.

Depending on where you live, different laws may apply (for example, GDPR in Europe) and all institutions must comply with these laws as well as any additional controls put in place by the university. Any stakeholder may have the right to request access to their data at any time. Should someone request access, your organization will need to be prepared and be aware of any policies such as if there is an administration fee that will be charged. Any staff member who handles data should also be aware of internal, local and national laws. Your institution’s data controller must advise staff of the latest laws and regulations, as these can change. Data protection can be scary, and it can be complicated, but with the right steps implemented, it doesn’t have to be.

Beatrix Potter is a contributor to both Essay Services and Personal Statement Online writing services, and even tutors at Law Assignment Writing Service. As a professional writer, she specializes in data and security. And during her spare time, she loves to travel, jog, and read many genres.