Posts Tagged ‘Higher Ed’

How Higher Education Can Combat Hackers with IAM Automation

  October 15th, 2020

It’s no secret that cybersecurity threats are on the rise for colleges and universities. With their vast wealth of personal information, extensive pools of research, and ever-growing collections of data, higher education is a tantalizing target for cyber attacks and the increase in breaches has been reported for years.

While there’s no one reason for the increase, automation has certainly played a role. We are not referring to a school using automation, but rather, hackers automating their attacks. Whether they’re slowing sifting data or breaking in with brute force, cybercriminals are taking full advantage of these technologies. Automation is accelerating these threats, putting higher education at increased risk every day. 

How can schools defend themselves against these automated attacks? The answer is in the question — fight automation with automation. Yet despite having access to the same automation advancements utilized by hackers, many colleges and universities still use manual, outdated and often homegrown IAM solutions. 

To make matters more challenging, many of the barriers to automation for higher education are built on the incorrect belief that systems need to be full of clean, organized data before implementing an automated IAM system. The truth is automation can help schools efficiently organize their systems. By automating their IAM solutions, colleges and universities can get ahead of these challenges and fortify their systems in critical ways.

Reduce Human Error

The number one cause of IAM system vulnerabilities is (and probably always will be) human error. Whether it’s incorrect access privileges, a lingering orphan account, or poor password practices, the smallest of mistakes can become a big problem. By formalizing and automating privileges, passwords, and more, schools can significantly shore up their systems. While automation won’t eliminate human error entirely, it can decrease the opportunities for those small, avoidable, yet problematic mistakes.

Adapt More Quickly to an Ever-changing Cyber Threat Landscape

Keeping pace with the rate of technological advancement is a challenge under any circumstance. When those improvements are also working against you (i.e., enabling new ways for threat actors to take advantage of system vulnerabilities) it can seem absolutely impossible. By automating critical (and otherwise tedious) tasks, schools can free up resources to combat these dynamic threats and stay a step ahead of future ones.

Make Room for Innovation

Strong cybersecurity requires time and resources — especially when most of it’s manual. Schools that still rely on homegrown IAM solutions often spend countless hours patching problems as they arise. This is inefficient, unsustainable, and leaves no room for growth or innovation. By introducing automation, colleges and universities not only shore up their systems, they also take countless maintenance tasks off their teams’ plates. This frees up time to focus on system improvements, scaling opportunities, and more.

One of the top technology challenges for colleges and universities continues to be combating cyber attacks. The barrage is on the rise, boosted in part by automation. As threats become increasingly more complex, the solution is staring schools in the face. By automating IAM systems, schools can strengthen their systems with a scalable solution to better protect their most valuable data now — and for years to come.

To learn more about Hitachi ID’s IAM automation solutions and how it’s helping colleges and universities stay a step ahead of hackers, join us for our free Hackers Use Automation, Why Aren’t You? webinar on November 19, 2020.

IAM Automation Controls Prevent the Risk of Orphan and Dormant Accounts in Higher Education

  September 30th, 2020

Perhaps more so than any other vertical, higher education faces complex and challenging issues when it comes to identity and access management. Continuously throughout the year, many accounts can easily become orphaned or dormant as the roles of students, professors, and other staff constantly evolve and change with course offerings, matriculations, and graduations. 

The university life cycle is complicated, and the manual, ad-hoc, and traditional systems that institutions often choose as their course to maintain security and governance are far from sufficient. The strength and automation of an Identity Access Management (IAM) solution, however, can enhance the controls that halt the growth of misappropriated, dormant, and orphaned accounts without the difficulty of home-grown, legacy implementations.

Unregulated Entitlements and Credentials Create Risk

Across any organization, and especially with higher education networks and systems, identities, entitlements, and credentials are dynamic and ever-evolving:

  1. Identities – records of people and nonhuman personas. In university systems, this includes everyone from students, professors,  administrative staff, and more.
  2. Entitlements – which grant identities access rights. In a higher education scenario, entitlements can change across academic timelines, class schedules, and departmental changes and transfers, etc.
  3. Credentials – used by identities to sign into systems. They include passwords, tokens, or certificates.

Identities, entitlements, and credentials are created, updated, and deleted as needed throughout an academic year. But in a typical four-year structure, colleges and universities are turning over thousands of graduates each spring, revoking entitlements, changing identities, and reorganizing credentials. And in the fall, new entitlements must be assigned to many more thousands of recently enrolled students. 

This active, overlapping, and manual process is rife for human error and misappropriated accounts and profiles. When the process breaks down, orphaned, dormant accounts propagate. These stray accounts increase risk and vulnerability to bad-actors in an unmonitored state. 

An Automatic Solution Creates Opportunity

An IAM solution automates and augments this process by strengthening governance and reducing vulnerability. By introducing automatic access deactivation and control processes, an IAM implementation cuts down on the number of inappropriate access rights and lost accounts. 

Utilizing an orphan, dormant account and profile control mechanism, an IAM system can:

  • Find orphan accounts not associated with an owner.
  • Find orphan user profiles that have no accounts.
  • Find dormant accounts with no recent login activity.
  • Find dormant user profiles, which contain only dormant accounts.
  • Submit these results to a request to automatically disable and/or remove them. Actions may be automatically or manually approved.

Within the vast hierarchy, complexity, and overlapping higher education timelines, the manual operation of this control mechanism can be a monumental task.  At the university level, without active and consistent analysis, these stray accounts and profiles can grow exponentially, leaving your organization less agile and, ultimately, more vulnerable.

Moreover, by implementing an IAM solution and its automatic yet robust control processes, monitoring these accounts going forward will make it easier for institutions of higher learning to purge legacy access rights and retrofit home grown solutions that would otherwise take ages in a manual-only process. It’s a win-win. 

People often revere universities for their hallowed halls, but schools should be diligent so that orphaned and dormant accounts don’t become part of that deep history long after people have departed. Consider an IAM solution to keep your organization’s system and digital hallways clean, tidy, and secure.

Register for our webinar, co-hosted by Dave Keiffer, Analyst, Tambellini Group, and Bruce Macdonald, Senior Sales Engineer, Hitachi ID on October 22 on Why Automation First Should Be the #1 Approach to learn more about how Hitachi-ID IAM automation solutions can help you conquer your higher education governance and cybersecurity challenges.

Key IAM Automation Policies and Controls for Stronger Governance

  September 15th, 2020

One of the most unique challenges of identity and access management in higher education is the complicated life cycles and overlapping roles of users. The roles of students, professors, and other staff within higher education are constantly evolving and require varied levels of access. 

To keep users secure and systems compliant with governance requirements, colleges and universities need an IAM solution that keeps up with these flexible structures. Still, many schools stick with manual homegrown, legacy systems because of the belief it’s the only way to ensure both flexibility and security. But there is a simpler solution. 

By introducing the right policies and IAM automation controls (i.e. features that reduce inappropriate access rights), colleges and universities can not only better regulate appropriate role-based access across networks but also strengthen governance and cybersecurity. 

Enforce Authentication and Password Security

Every time a user logs in, they access confidential information. Whether they are searching the library’s database or entering their home address and billing information for tuition payments, each login involves valuable details, which attracts hackers.  

The first step to protect this data is to ensure that each user is verified when logging into the system. While there are methods in place to ask the user to self-identify (such as answer a security question), a multi-factor authentication (MFA) control is the most secure way to verify a user. By replacing passwords and security questions with tokens or PINs sent to separate devices (e.g., a smartphone), MFA enables a secure, seamless process across systems. 

MFA also plays an important role when users forget their passwords because they can be automatically authenticated without the need for IT support to manually step in. Last spring when schools went virtual as a result of Covid-19, students began logging into university and college systems from all over the world. This posed the threat of not recognizing hackers based on obscure locations. Multi-factor authentication provides additional security to meet governance requirements, even with new remote and hybrid environments.

Streamline Complex System Access Requirements

In addition to managing complex roles, most universities and colleges require that information be shared between schools and departments and even third-parties (i.e. research partners at other universities and institutes). With all of these access levels to consider it can be challenging to ensure everyone has the access they need and nothing more. This is why Segregation of Duties (SoD) is crucial and especially helpful in keeping systems secure and compliant with any governance requirements. 

Put simply, SoD defines the set of entitlements that should not be assigned at the same time to any one user. Ultimately, SoD prevents conflicts of interest within overlapping roles as well as failures in the system that could expose it to a security breach. 

Automate Account Deactivation

The typical four-year structure of colleges and universities means that these institutions are turning over thousands of graduates each spring. Imagine manually terminating and migrating all of those accounts each spring. Undoubtedly, it would be a time-consuming task that’s incredibly susceptible to human error. 

By automating the deactivation of these accounts via IAM controls, schools are able to expedite the process and enforce governance and cybersecurity requirements by preventing the system from filling with orphaned or dormant accounts.

Securing IAM solutions while prioritizing security and governance has always been a complicated task for colleges and universities. Now, with the added challenge of remote and hybrid learning environments, the need for a simpler solution is even more apparent. Homegrown legacy systems are not sufficient. By incorporating these fundamental policies and automated IAM controls, schools can take tedious tasks off their to-do list while achieving governance and cybersecurity success.

Learn more about how Hitachi-ID IAM automation solutions can help you conquer your higher education governance and cybersecurity challenges by joining for our webinar on Why Automation First Should Be the #1 Approach on October 22, co-hosted by the Tambellini Group.

IAM Automation: The Secret to Governance and Cybersecurity Success in Higher Ed

  September 8th, 2020

For colleges and universities, governance and cybersecurity can get quite complicated. These institutions of higher learning are entrusted with an enormous amount of personal data (emails, transcripts, test scores, salaries, etc.), from students, teachers, alumni, and more. The safety and security of it is of the utmost importance, but due to the complexity of higher ed organizational structures, many schools are still operating with manual legacy and homegrown solutions for identity and access management (IAM).

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to shift to remote and hybrid learning, the importance of strong policies and protocols for cybersecurity and governance only increased, as did the degree of difficulty. With increased remote access, universities have to contend with a slew of unknowns as students and staff who once primarily accessed systems via internal networks are now signing in from countless external sources.

The solution? Automation. It’s a core value of IAM solutions and can help schools meet and maintain governance and cybersecurity goals by simplifying critical IAM processes:

Better Define and Manage Roles

Lifecycle management, particularly properly assigning user roles, is a critical piece of higher ed IAM and governance. It’s complicated because of the unique organizational structure of colleges and universities — roles can overlap (professors who are also students, for example), change frequently (active students become alums), and new users are a near-constant (welcome, freshmen!). Because of these complexities, a manual approach is both time-consuming and prone to human error. 

To assign roles effectively and efficiently, higher ed IAM requires flexibility and customization. By automating and integrating the IAM solution, the system is able to both discover and define roles based on the parameters provided, saving time and avoiding costly, potentially disastrous mistakes.

Improve Data Cleaning Capabilities

Given the sheer volume of data processed in higher education, it’s inevitable some bad data will exist in the system. Unfortunately, there’s a persistent myth that this data needs to be cleaned before any automation can be implemented. That simply isn’t true. 

Automation supports data cleanup, not the inverse. Automated processes and workflows can be used to quickly flag inappropriate access and deal with orphan and dormant accounts and profiles, eliminating potential cybersecurity risks before they begin.

Strengthen Controls

Preventing inappropriate access either by internal users or outside threats is a core piece of cybersecurity and governance for colleges and universities. It’s important that schools not only have the right controls in place but that they’re able to quickly react to any potential threats to the system.

From automatic access deactivation to risk scores to password security, controls are key to tighten access procedures (a crucial part of cybersecurity). Automation exponentially improves these processes to quickly spot and solve any potential breaches before they happen.

Institutions of higher learning are dealing with an exponential amount of personal data at any given moment, and manual solutions simply won’t cut it anymore. The transition to IAM automation is by no means a challenge that’s unique to the higher ed world, but when it comes to governance and data privacy, the stakes are high and complicated. Getting it right is critical not only for governance and cybersecurity success, it benefits the whole IT ecosystem from admin to end-user.

Join us for a free webinar on October 22 to learn more about how Hitachi ID solutions can help you overcome your identity management challenges.

The Biggest Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Hiding Within Your Higher Ed Walls

  September 3rd, 2020

With their multitudes of access points and extensive amounts of valuable information, universities and colleges are one of the most attractive organizations for cybercriminals to infiltrate. Today, hackers can buy attack kits on the black market or scale their invasion by using higher education’s predictable email addresses. 

As the threat landscape grows more complex, higher education is facing unique challenges when managing individual access permissions, collaborations with other organizations, and protecting the personal information of students, faculty, and staff. Understanding the most common vulnerabilities within your identity and access management (IAM) is the first step in preventing security breaches from happening.

  1. Ever-Changing Populations 

Unlike a typical organization, a university or college onboards a new class of members (thousands of new users) every fall and offboards the graduating class (thousands more) each spring. Not to mention the professors, administration, and other staff members that are added and/or removed throughout the year. The sheer volume of identities being created and deleted on a regular basis provides hackers with plenty of opportunities to mount attacks and break into these accounts. 

  1. Overlapping Roles

The unique structure of colleges and universities require complex systems, which can create opportunities for hackers when the right precautions are not taken. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone in a higher education institution to take on two different roles simultaneously (e.g., a student who is also a teacher’s assistant, a staff member who is also enrolled in classes, or an alum who eventually returns as a professor to teach). Privileged access systems that aren’t robust enough to support these multi-role requirements have the potential to expose confidential information and threaten the institution’s cybersecurity. 

  1. Dynamic and Collaborative Partnerships

The higher education system inherently values collaboration and ease of use to achieve intellectual breakthroughs — whether through partnering with colleagues, other educational institutions, or those in the private sector. This connection to third parties often includes a massive volume of research findings and subscriptions to costly journals and services — information that hackers are particularly interested in because of its value in countries with limited access to data. 

  1. Non-hierarchical Structures and Homegrown Solutions

Each department within a college or university may have its own unique structure and self-determined budget, which can create obstacles when aligning individual departments with the overarching system. Identities may not match up, or appropriate access can be incorrectly granted or completely blocked. Schools often use identity systems that were built by a group who may no longer be there. Because of the autonomous structures within higher education, individual departments have built solutions to secure their users’ identity and access, but these homegrown solutions can quickly become outdated and inefficient. An unorganized system leaves hackers with a plethora of weak spots where they can break in. 

  1. Lax Login Credentials

In higher education, a user’s identity is often a single login that works across different systems the university or college uses. For example, a user’s login information for a billing system might be the same as their class information system. If institutions do not employ strict multi-factor authentication (MFA) practices, they may be at great risk of attack. Without MFA, bad actors can gain access to all of the user’s accounts and information with just one login. 

The Solution

With all of the unique challenges that can be found in higher education, it is critical to find an IAM solution that provides the features colleges and universities need to  organize and automate the roles and access privilege of individual users. Paired with cybersecurity best practices, schools will have the tools they need to protect against common vulnerabilities and stop hacks before they happen.

Hitachi’s identity fabric contains the industry’s only single platform solution for Identity and Privileged Access Management. Hitachi ID leverages decades of experience resulting in rock-solid reliability, performance and scalability. These solutions can help universities and colleges manage their users’ identities and access privilege in a faster, more affordable, and customizable way.  

Protect your institution’s information and resources by requesting a demo of our Identity Manager today.
Learn more about how Hitachi-ID IAM automation solutions can help you conquer your higher education governance and cybersecurity challenges by joining for our webinar on Why Automation First Should Be the #1 Approach on October 22, co-hosted by the Tambellini Group.

A Balancing Act: How Privileged Access Management Provides Security and Convenience in a Remote Learning World

  September 1st, 2020

As digital classrooms increasingly become the norm and learning difficulties arise in the transition to virtual, higher education must evolve the student experience and educational outcomes, but they are held back by poorly integrated IT portfolios. This is further complicated by complex university-specific roadblocks such as ever-changing populations, overlapping roles and identity sources, non-hierarchical organizational structures, dynamic and collaborative partnerships, and legacy and homegrown solutions (that often offer substandard IT infrastructure). Therefore, the number of point to point connections, passwords, and accounts and levels of access between systems increases exponentially, raising complexity and security issues. 

Moreover, Covid-19 has exacerbated outlying remote learning factors such as diverse student expectations, perceived value under pressure, competing consumer IT realities, and online education competition. 

These obstacles, both internal and external, make change difficult and many higher educational institutions face these intimidating elements without a roadmap. Instead, universities navigating these realities should wrap their new remote learning portfolios with the convenience and versatility of privileged access management (PAM), the security of single sign-on, and the control of access governance.

The Solution: Privileged Access Management for Convenience and Security at Scale 

PAM secures access to elevated privileges and eliminates the need for shared and static passwords to privileged accounts. Furthermore, it enforces strong authentication and authorization to applications before granting access. All of these features wrap into the security and convenience of single sign on and access governance control. 

Some high-level features that secure university IT infrastructure without sacrificing convenience include:

Credential, team vaults

  • Credential vaults maintain data and access to privileged passwords across a variety of systems. Team vaults allow for the creation of easily scalable groups and different types of credential access across more extensive networks. 
  • Even in an entirely remote learning-enabled campus, access to this vault is imperative to maintain campus-wide network and service capabilities in the event of a server-side disaster (such as a fire, flood, or power outage). Privileged accounts are necessary to make that recovery possible. 
  • Since servers occasionally break down, Privileged Access Manager supports load balancing and data replication between multiple application servers and numerous credential vaults. 
  • When everything is dependent on virtual classroom connectivity, convenience, and accessibility, built-in replication ensures your institution will maintain minimal network downtime and uninterrupted privileged account access in times of need. This capability provides resilience across complex and ever-changing populations and overlapping schedules and roles in an all or nothing distance learning network.  

Authorization

  • Privileged Access Manager can fingerprint applications before granting access to passwords. It utilizes an included web services API to onboard and removes systems and applications to interact with workflow requests and retrieves passwords if authorized on-the-fly.
  • Architectures will change at a rapid pace with the addition of new components and subtraction of older modules. This flexibility will provide authorization and authentication at a versatile speed and allow for higher ed remote learning scale. 

Single sign-on, access governance control

  • A secured, singular point of access grants entry to unified communication and the network platform, which grants appropriate levels and privileges to each user across thousands of accounts. Additionally, by rendering SSH and RDP sessions in a browser, PAM empowers users who are offsite or work for third parties to launch on their PC or smartphone regardless of platform.
  • The consolidated system provides administrators with dynamic and adaptable access governance control over non-hierarchical organizational structures and dynamic and collaborative partnerships that so often happen in distance learning network scenarios and across other higher education initiatives.

Student, faculty, staff, and data security remain a paramount concern as Covid-19 pressures push higher educational institutions towards remote or hybrid learning environments.  Universities must evolve dynamically to meet the demands of a distance learning world. Privileged access management provides that needed versatility, security, control, and scale at value.

Schedule your demo today to see how Hitachi ID IAM solutions can help solve your remote learning and privileged access management challenges.
Learn more about how Hitachi-ID IAM automation solutions can help you conquer your higher education governance and cybersecurity challenges by joining for our webinar on Why Automation First Should Be the #1 Approach on October 22, co-hosted by the Tambellini Group.

The Ultimate Checklist for Higher Ed Identity Management in Remote and Hybrid-Learning Environments

  August 24th, 2020

Last spring, as universities and colleges closed in response to Covid-19, higher ed institutions were faced with a cascade of Herculean tasks: quickly and safely empty campus, translate course work for online learning, and adapt already complex identity and access management (IAM) processes. 

For many schools, identity management was already a complicated system plagued by challenges specific to higher education’s unique structure (.e. ever-changing populations, overlapping roles and identity sources, and dynamic, collaborative partnerships). The addition of new remote considerations only further tangled this web with new priorities and requirements — specifically the need for secure, unified communications and more remote support options.

Because of unique academic structures (either broken down by college or department), identity management systems for higher education are often incredibly segmented. Attaining and maintaining a scalable, reliable system requires that those silos come down. The same standards, rules, and safeguards need to be in place for every student and faculty member whether they are matriculating or employed as an instructor in the school of communication, arts and sciences, or business, for example. 

By working with one, centralized system, schools are able to organize multiple data sources into one system to automate provisioning, synchronize systems of record, and streamline appropriate access through the identity lifecycle with a highly secure yet publicly accessible identity solution. 

As universities begin their fall semesters with remote and hybrid classrooms (largely unchartered territory), it’s essential that their identity and access management systems are as robust as their curricula. This list of imperative IAM structures and features will be key to their success:

Strong, Easy-to-Use Password Management

Whether remote, on campus, or a blend of the two, strong password management must be an identity management priority for colleges and universities. With the constant cycle of new users and changing roles (most of whom will now be onboarding remotely), higher ed requires a password management solution that provides fast and reliable password reset and synchronization across all systems. Self-service and assisted password reset will help minimize remote support needs as well.

Reliable Connectors 

Even in enterprise applications, IAM systems do not exist in a vacuum. Connectors allow admins to easily integrate the tools required to effectively and efficiently manage their systems. The increase in remote access — often from a wide array of personal devices — adds another layer of difficulty for IAM solutions. In the complex world of higher ed, connectors bring email, student directories, HR, file systems, and more together for a more integrated, streamlined, but still secure, experience. An IAM solution that allows you the bandwidth to integrate the connectors you need will help avoid scaling headaches later on.

Flexible Group Management 

Higher ed’s unique, fluid identity lifecycles can make group and list management challenging. A group management tool that allows admins to easily create, delete, and manage attributes and memberships of user groups with similar use cases will ensure your system has the flexibility it needs to adapt to whatever new requirements and environments may arise.

The security of students and staff and their personal data has always been a top priority for institutions of higher learning. As the system continues to evolve — both in response to Covid-19 and technological and societal changes ahead — reliable, flexible, and scalable identity management that can grow with your institution is a prerequisite.

Schedule your demo today to see how Hitachi-ID IAM solutions can help solve your identity management challenges. Want to receive more Higher Education identity and access resources? Sign up for our emails.
Learn more about how Hitachi-ID IAM automation solutions can help you conquer your higher education governance and cybersecurity challenges by joining for our webinar on Why Automation First Should Be the #1 Approach on October 22, co-hosted by the Tambellini Group.