Hurricanes, power-outages, man-made disasters—every organization has to prepare for these but when it comes to emergencies, universities face unique challenges because of the very nature of their structure and communities. Unlike the average office, universities are not enclosed spaces, and many different people—from students, to faculty, to staff, to visitors—are moving in and out of campus on any given day or time. This can make securing the campus and creating a comprehensive university incident response plan difficult.
Author–Kristi Perdue Hinkle
On the heels of the largest data breach on record, it is easy to say that data breaches have become big, and all too common, news. We see it flash across the screen daily: legal firm—leak, hospital—ransomware, government agency—hacked. Cyber security is no longer something just for financial organizations to worry about—it’s become a necessity for any organization that handles private, valuable and sensitive information to prepare for – including those in higher education.
In the last few years, multiple universities have been the victim of data breaches—University of California Berkeley, University of Virginia, University of Maryland, to name a few. In 2014 alone, 30 educational institutions experienced data breaches, with five of those schools experiencing larger data breaches than the Sony hack. Universities face a unique set of challenges when it comes to a data breach. As Paul Rivers, UC Berkeley’s CISO noted, similar to a healthcare organization, schools cannot close if a major breach occurs and network security on campus cannot be treated like a bank or technology company. Schools by nature are an open community, with a network shared by students, staff and even visitors—so closing vulnerabilities can be especially difficult.
Unfortunately, a data breach or IT outage is not the only type of emergency that Universities must prepare for. In the wake of acts of terror, natural disasters and other reported campus safety concerns over the last decade, Universities have a heightened call to action to protect campus staff and students. The ability to securely, efficiently, and, when appropriate, confidentially correspond about emergencies is paramount to successful response and recovery.
So how can universities ensure that sensitive information and communications remain secure during an out-of-course event?
One way is the use of encrypted, secure, ephemeral messaging. Secure messaging enables executives, board members and staff (as well as students for that matter) to communicate in a way that ensures that any sensitive information is protected. This is because at the core the sender is in complete control of anything he or she sends out. Messages cannot be forwarded, shared, saved, printed or screenshotted by the recipient, eliminating the risk of reputational damage or diminished trust. As an example, if a communication needs to be kept to a specific area of the campus to avoid panic during an emergency response – it can be; if a communication needs to be kept confidential to avoid media coverage during an emergency response – it can be; and if a hacker needs to be kept out of discussions concerning an emergency response to a breach – that too can be done.
For additional security, ephemerality means that any messages received and sent are automatically removed from the sender or the receiver’s devices per a pre-defined time period for expiration, removing the risk caused by BYOD device loss and theft. With secure messaging Apps that also support compliance, such as Vaporstream, a copy of the message can be archived in a single repository of record and stored behind a firewall for safe keeping to meet business and regulatory requirements.
In case of an emergency, secure messaging keeps sensitive communications ongoing. This is especially critical for universities, given that schools cannot close when an incident occurs. Secure messaging provides a means to continue crucial conversations and to discuss mitigation, emergency response and recovery plans. In case hackers or even terrorists may have access to certain university information or communications, employees can rest assured that whatever conversations they are conducting via secure messaging are uncompromised.
In short, encrypted, secure, ephemeral messaging protects high level communications for universities at every step of the way—during day-to-day business communications for such things as discussing HR and IP as well as during out-of-course events where emergency response plans need to go into action. If you would like to learn more about secure messaging and Vaporstream’s solution you can download our white paper or contact us.