When COVID-19 struck in the spring of 2020, colleges and universities across the country were presented with three key challenges. They had to shift thousands of students, faculty, and employees to remote learning, instruction, and work. They had to do it quickly or risk losing an entire semester to the pandemic. And they had to do it securely or risk the creation of data vulnerabilities that hackers would likely exploit.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, higher education was already one of the most targeted industries in the world when it came to cyberattacks. In 2019, Moody’s (which controls the bond ratings for most institutions in the U.S.) reported that data security was “a growing risk for higher education institutions globally” due to the fact that they “retain valuable information across expansive online networks;” that “their breadth of operations can be vast, with innumerable access points;” and that “investing in state-of-the-art defenses likely competes with myriad other priorities.”
Since the pandemic began, cyber criminals have sought to take advantage of these trends like never before. According to a report released by Checkpoint in the summer of 2020, “the number of attacks on educational institutions has grown faster than in any other sector,” with “a 30 percent increase compared to a 6.5 percent increase across all industries in July and August .” During the same time period, Microsoft Security Intelligence found that more than 60 percent of some 9 million malware encounters worldwide took place in the education sector alone.
It was trends and statistics like these that were on the minds of leaders at the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District when ensuring that its 20,000 students could continue their studies unabated amid the coronavirus pandemic. 665 administrators, staff, and full-time faculty would have to perform their essential roles from off-campus locations – and that meant providing remote access to the technology, tools, and applications they rely on to help support the student body.
Simply put, those “innumerable access points” Moody’s cited a year earlier were about to grow exponentially – and that was just the beginning. Secure remote access solutions needed to be fully deployed and scaled up. The expected use of unmanaged devices and unknown WIFI connections had to be managed. And there was the potential that employees could unwittingly utilize malicious browser plug-ins or create other holes in the institution’s defenses.
SJECCD needed a solution that could quickly address every one of these issues – and do so without significantly adding to the financial and logistical burdens the pandemic was already creating. Working hand-in-hand with cybersecurity experts at Ferrilli, it selected Azure Windows Virtual Desktop for Remote Employees because it checked every box.
Not only would the solution provide students, faculty, and staff with the ability to securely access their desktops, applications, and files from anywhere; it would do so with no up-front capital costs. There were no termination fees; SJECCD would pay only for the aspects of the solution that it used; and with the dollars it saved, SJECCD was able to help provide secure laptops to students, faculty, staff who needed them to stay productive from remote locations.
Perhaps best of all, SJECCD leveraged Azure Windows Virtual Desktop to build a remote work capability whose utility will far outlast the coronavirus pandemic as administrators, faculty, and staff work in new and different ways moving forward. With several leading voices already predicting a post-pandemic uptick in remote operations in the higher education sector, SJECCD is now well positioned to navigate a world in which distance education and work grow more prevalent – and the threats to cybersecurity grow more sophisticated with every passing day.
If you have questions or concerns about cybersecurity at your institution, Ferrilli is here to help. We’re mission-driven to ensuring higher ed is safe and secure! Get in touch with us today to start a conversation.