Best Practices Against Cybercriminals in Higher Education

As the holidays approach, cybercriminals recognize that this is a crazy time of year, which encourages them to increase their attacks. Hackers look for poor security configurations, weak controls, and bad cyber habits. Incorporate security controls into your digital practices to strengthen your defenses and follow our best security practices to prevent cybersecurity breaches. 

Cybercriminals hacking a schools data

Actions to Keep Cybercriminals Away:  

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Layered Protection 

Your school should enforce MFA for anyone accessing student information. Each employee should have their own MFA and should NOT share it with others.  

Access Controls: Limit and Authenticate 

Only allow access to authorized individuals who are qualified to be working in financial aid. Access should be given and based on the needs of their roles. Student information is not meant for everyone to access. These controls extend beyond technical measures to include physical control. Lock your rooms and shut down computers/laptops when not in use. Secure your technology with hard-to-access passwords, and do not share them with anyone. 

Protocols and Trainings 

Establish a set procedure for handling student information and staying up to date with changes. Train your employees for security awareness and provide ongoing training to ensure they are taking steps to stay aware of threats. Remind employees about the importance of handling suspicious links, as one click can have significant consequences. Since remote workers still exist, ensure that the remote desktop protocol is secure and monitored.  

Cybercriminals extracting passwords from a laptop

Monitoring: Detect Unauthorized Activities 

Avoid information being tampered with, accessed, or used by regularly monitoring authorized users to detect and prevent unauthorized access. Keep a list of authorized users, but do not store their usernames and passwords.  

Never Share Usernames and Passwords 

If your school uses and shares usernames and passwords among each other, this can pose a big threat and security issue to your school and students. Each employee should be assigned their own login information. 

Data Retention 

Dispose of student data after two years unless it is necessary for business operations, business purposes, or required by law. Paper records that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should be disposed of correctly, such as through shredding or burning. 

Stay Safe from Cybercriminals!

When adopting these measures, your school can ensure the highest security and confidentiality of student data! Don’t forget, cybercriminals are also out to target you personally. Therefore, it’s not just in the workplace; outside of work, you need to be cautious about your activities. Don’t put your company at risk of shutting down; stay smart and stay vigilant. 

For more information on cybersecurity, visit the Federal Student Aid Knowledge Center 

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