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Tuesday, 04 June 2019 23:12

Academic computer networks ‘prime targets’ for security attackers Featured

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Academic computer networks ‘prime targets’ for security attackers Image Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Academic computer networks are often exceptionally large and diverse, and are notoriously challenging to secure and monitor, which can make them prime targets for attackers, according to comments made by one security firm in the wake of a data breach at the Australian National University.

As reported by iTWire, the ANU in Canberra suffered a major data breach with personal details of staff, students and visitors over the past 18 years exposed.

The university only just revealed the breach on Tuesday morning with the Vice chancellor Dr Brian Schmidt saying the breach occurred in late 2018 “when a sophisticated operator accessed our systems illegally”.

Tim Wellsmore, director, Government Security Programs, Asia Pacific at cyber security solutions provider FireEye, says that espionage continues to top the list of cyber security threats to higher education and research institutions in Australia – and these institutions hold extensive information that is valuable to nation-state actors, “including research related to national security, its faculty’s communications and contacts, personal information, and intellectual property”.

Wellsmore also says that due to the sophistication of the threats facing this sector, more and more institutions are leaning towards a partnership model with outside firms to “defend the environment and improve not just the technology layer, but also the people and process elements”.

In further comment on the ANU security breach, Adam Biviano, Principal Solution Architect at digital identity management platform ForgeRock, said: “Education providers may store and manage millions of consumer data records and thus are finding themselves under a constant barrage of cyber attacks.”

According to Biviano, "personal identity information remains the holy grail of cybercriminals as there are many avenues to profit from it".

“Organisations from all industries can protect identity information by implementing a strong customer identity strategy which includes understanding how it is used and stored across different lines of businesses and ensure that sensitive personal information is only kept on robust infrastructure.

"Not only does a breach impact a business with the potential to inflict brand damage and reduce revenues, it can also see impacted customers pay a hefty personal price given they may now be directly in the sights of the perpetrator as they look to cash in.

"Protecting customer data must be a top priority for enterprises of all types and industry sectors, as the evidence is clear that cyber criminals show no sign of slowing down."

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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