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Guarding Education: The Impact of Compromised Credentials

In recent years, the education sector has increasingly become a target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. Colleges, universities, and K-12 institutions are entrusted with vast amounts of personal and academic data, making them prime targets for cyber attacks.

At Enzoic, we recognize the critical importance of protecting educational institutions from the devastating consequences of compromised credentials and data breaches. In this blog post, we’ll explore the specific challenges faced by the education sector and provide insights into mitigating these risks.

The Growing Threat Landscape
The education sector faces a myriad of cybersecurity threats, with compromised credentials and data breaches posing significant risks.

Here’s how these threats impact colleges, universities, and K-12 education.

When user credentials, such as usernames and passwords, are compromised, cybercriminals can gain unauthorized access to educational systems and networks. This can lead to the theft of sensitive data, academic records, and financial information. For example, in 2019, Scott County Schools experienced an email compromise attack that resulted in the district accidentally paying $3.7 million into a fraudster’s bank account.

Compromised credentials can lead to data breaches. According to the findings in the Verizon DBIR Report, stolen credentials were responsible for as many as 31% of breaches within the educational sector. Educational institutions store vast amounts of personal and academic data, including student records, financial aid information, and research data. A data breach can result in the exposure or theft of this sensitive information, leading to financial loss, reputational damage, and legal ramifications. According to a Comparitech STUDY, over 2,600 data breaches occurred in U.S. schools between 2005 and 2023, affecting nearly 32 million records.

Challenges Faced by Educational Institutions
Several factors contribute to the vulnerability of colleges, universities, and K-12 education to cyber attacks:

  • Limited Resources: Many educational institutions operate with limited IT resources and budget constraints, making it challenging to implement robust cybersecurity measures and maintain up-to-date infrastructure. In fact, the average school spends less than 8% of its IT budget on cybersecurity, with one in five schools committing less than 1%.
  • Diverse User Base: Educational environments often have a diverse user base, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Managing user accounts and enforcing security policies across this diverse ecosystem can be complex and prone to oversight.
  • High Turnover Rates: Colleges and universities experience frequent turnover among students and staff. Managing access credentials and ensuring the secure offboarding of individuals who leave the institution is crucial yet challenging.

Mitigating Risks with Automated Solutions
To address the unique cybersecurity challenges faced by educational institutions, proactive measures and advanced solutions are essential.

Here’s how Enzoic’s solutions can help mitigate the risks of compromised credentials and data breaches in higher ed:

  • Credential Screening: Enzoic’s credential screening solutions continuously monitor user credentials against a database of compromised passwords and known threats. By identifying compromised credentials in real-time, institutions can prevent unauthorized access and proactively mitigate the risk of account takeover.
  • Password Policy Enforcement: Enforcing strong password policies and regularly auditing user passwords can strengthen security posture and reduce the risk of credential-based attacks. Enzoic provides tools to assess password strength and enforce policy compliance, enhancing overall security.

“Passwords remain an effective and affordable authentication solution. However, to keep our systems secure, we determined we needed a way to prevent the use of compromised credentials.” – Director of Identity and Access Management, a large university in California.

Empowering Education with Cybersecurity Awareness
In addition to technological solutions, fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness and education is paramount. Educational institutions must prioritize cybersecurity training and awareness programs for students, faculty, and staff. By promoting best practices for password hygiene, recognizing phishing attempts, and adhering to security protocols, individuals can become active participants in safeguarding sensitive information and preventing cyber attacks.

Protecting the Future of Education
In conclusion, the protection of educational institutions from cyber threats is essential to safeguarding the integrity of academic and personal data. By understanding the unique challenges faced by colleges, universities, and K-12 education and implementing proactive cybersecurity measures, institutions can mitigate the risks of compromised credentials and data breaches. Enzoic remains committed to supporting the education sector in its cybersecurity efforts and empowering institutions to protect the future of education. Enzoic also helps colleges, universities and K-12 with NIST 800-63 Password Guidelines.

Together, let’s build a secure and resilient environment for teaching, learning, and research.

Read an Education case study: Solving the Password Problem in Education