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Colleges At Increased Risk of Cyber Attacks [Report]

Higher education institutions across the nation and the world face an increased risk of cyber attacks, according to a new report by Moody’s Investors Service.

The report found that amid budget constraints and low spending on cyber defenses, research institutions and universities with medical centers, retaining valuable information across online networks, are most vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Michael Osborn, a Moody’s VP-Senior Analyst, said that institutions with numerous campuses and with thousands of enrolled students, faculty, and staff leave their online networks vulnerable to hackers.

“Universities and colleges possess information such as confidential research, medical records and financial information of students, parents and donors,” Osborn said.

“Those that undertake substantial research or that have medical centers are the most vulnerable to cyber attacks and would suffer the greatest impact from an attack that leads to data disclosure or operational disruption.”

While quoting IBM Security research, the report noted that 101 universities in the U.S. confirmed data disclosures in 2017, compared to 15 in 2014. The trend is expected to rise as many institutions have set out to globally expand their presence.

“At the same time budgetary restraints may limit their ability to invest in cybersecurity defenses, though such costs are only likely to grow as university networks become increasingly interconnected across borders, sectors and organizations,” Moody said in a release.

Last year, Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen described cyber attacks and hacking as a bigger threat to the U.S. than physical attacks, without specifically mentioning the extension of these threats to higher education institutes.

Earlier this year The Wall Street Journal also reported that Chinese hackers were aiming at U.S. universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington, by sending phishing emails in a bid to steal military research.

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