The Regulatory Burden

Higher education institutions face hefty privacy and cybersecurity requirements. Their stock-and-trade is sensitive information. Everything from personal data about students and staff to research data that may include proprietary secrets or have national security concerns.

Additionally, IT infrastructure security threats can evolve rapidly as users bring new devices or new services onto the network.

Thus, enforcing cybersecurity best practices by students and faculty and protecting sensitive data are critical to higher education institutions. But this is challenging to do in a scalable way without implementing widespread awareness for both students and faculty.

There are a number of regulatory frameworks that can empower institutions to deal with this complexity, implement a strong data privacy and cybersecurity program and build awareness that will help improve the adoption of security best practices across the institution.

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A Framework for Data Privacy Success

The following are just a few examples of the regulatory frameworks that can empower higher education institutions to better manage their data and IT systems:

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) imposes privacy protections and access restrictions on student information, so colleges must keep academic records secure and manage permissions from third parties who may or may not have the authorization to see records
  • All the standard privacy laws (HIPAA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, GDPR) extend to the personal data of others who might be in a college’s database: faculty, staff, contractors and perhaps even parents
  • Most colleges and universities either bid on government research projects or accept federal dollars for financial aid. In that case, those institutions must also meet the security standards of NIST 800-171
  • Projects related to military or national security issues (say, artificial intelligence research) can also face export control restrictions where foreign nationals working with the school (a visiting professor from overseas) cannot access project data.

Manage Compliance and Risk with Confidence and Ease

To help organize their risk management, protect data and implement information security programs, institutions need an automated solution to streamline documenting, managing and monitoring their risk evaluations and mitigation workflows.

The Reciprocity® ZenGRC® platform is a compliance management system for higher education that allows these institutions to prioritize the most severe risks so that compliance team members know what should be done first and how to do it.

Real-time monitoring and reporting empower stakeholders with better transparency into the cybersecurity and risk management program.

Furthermore, with ZenGRC’s audit trail functionality, institutions can document remediation activities to prove that they have implemented and maintained data integrity, cybersecurity and availability to protect student, faculty and research data privacy.

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Compliance Objectives

Higher education institutions must use multiple frameworks to address security compliance and data privacy obligations.

For example, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has a Cybersecurity Assessment Tool to help map security controls to privacy rules for personal data.

Colleges can also use the Institutions of Higher Education Compliance Framework to assess and manage security related to federal financial aid.

NIST 800-171 applies to security on government contracts, and CISOs concerned about commercial tech service vendors may want to use their own SOC 2 audits and remediation plans.

The bottom line is that while these frameworks are extremely helpful, they can quickly get too cumbersome to manage manually. That’s where ZenGRC can help, empowering you with the templates, guidance and automated workflows needed to:

  • Assess the starting security posture of your information systems and any third parties you use
  • Establish corrective steps that might be necessary and assign them to control owners
  • Monitor usage of IT services to see whether new third parties are on the network
  • Identify security gaps you must fill to meet regulatory requirements
  • Monitor whether those fixes are on schedule
  • Conduct any new risk assessments that might be necessary as new regulations emerge

Choose the product that suits you

Reciprocity ZenComply

Accelerate your compliance programs and see how they impact your risk posture.

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Reciprocity ZenRisk

Gain contextual insight on your risk posture to mitigate business exposure.

Frequently Asked Questions

In 2021, the Educause IT Issues Panel shared the key technologies expected to impact cybersecurity for higher education institutions.

They were:

  • Cloud computing vendors
  • Endpoint monitoring and response
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) and single sign-on (SSO)
  • Data integrity technology
  • Research security
  • Data privacy governance

The Ponemon Institute recently shared that the average cost of data breaches in the education sector in 2020 was $3.9 million.

These costs were primarily associated with remediation tactics and productivity lost during an outage. Still, some higher education institutions have been forced to pay a ransom to regain their sensitive data stolen by cyber attackers.

Last year, for example, the University of California San Francisco paid a ransom of $1.14 million in Bitcoin to retrieve critical data related to medical research.

Higher education institutions have, in recent years, made use of large databases to manage data and data and governance programs. Having all of this data aggregated in a single location made it easier to manage and secure.

However, data, intellectual property and research are no longer stored in a single, central location managed by an IT manager or CISO.

Today, user authentication, security patch management, firewalls and anti-virus software must be managed and deployed across a far more complex IT environment.

Yet, the tasks involved should still be managed from one central point to assure effective security and compliance with regulatory obligations.