Providing a first-class digital service to your students, securely


Posted on: November 19, 2018 by Chris Cumine

If the continuous headlines reporting data breaches at leading companies hasn’t convinced you that cybersecurity has become part of the fabric of everyday life, then the consistent flow of GDPR-related emails might have.

Earlier this year, of course, the Data Protection Act was replaced and extended by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As well as triggering hundreds of ‘opt-in’ emails to fill people’s inboxes, the new regulation also expanded the remit of data protection and inflated the threat of a fine too.

Shortly before the introduction of the GDPR, however, one London-based university became the first (and presumably last) to be fined under the Data Protection Act of 1998 after a data breach resulted in the loss of nearly 20,000 students’ personal records. The penalty now is likely to be far greater.

It could be argued that GDPR should be treated as a minimum standard and the best universities will go above and beyond to further protect the large amounts of sensitive information universities look after, both in terms of students but also as research facilities.

Providing the best service, securely

Students entering higher education today have high expectations – most often derived from experiences in their private lives – of what technology can do for them.

Digital solutions are increasingly the norm, and universities aim to compete on how well they can provide the very best to prospective students and therefore climb up the league table. Some are even using technology to expand beyond traditional brick and mortar classrooms, offering remote access via online courses to students worldwide. Indeed, when we’ve conducted focus groups with students in the past, seamless access to technology and connectivity often ranks highly. More broadly, student accommodation app SPCE found that university facilities, such as IT, ranks in the top 5 of important factors when deciding on a university.

For universities to evolve effectively in a digital world and be able to deliver students the experience they expect, then a resilient cyber defence plays an important role in underpinning this.

Young and at risk

Our recent report, The Currency of Cyber Trust, found that 22% of people between 16 and 24 had been affected by a cyber attack – the highest of any group. Just as universities feel responsible for the wellbeing of their students, many of whom are taking their first steps towards independence, online protection is an area where students might need more support.

The risk of failing to meet these standards is much the same as for any typical business, and even more so with GDPR in the mix: not only are the fines bigger, but reputational damage could result in students choosing other institutions that better suit their digital needs.

Of the respondents to our survey, 16-24 year olds ranked above average when it came to the impact insufficient cyber security has on the organisations they deal with. More than half (61%) said that their idea of an organisation’s cyber security capability is a deciding factor in whether or not to engage with that organisation, and 25% said that being affected by a breach would mean they wouldn’t engage with the same organisation again.

Such a competitive education sector has resulted in a far better experience for most students across the board. Over the past few decades we’ve moved from stereotypical ‘student digs’ to on demand apartments and online lectures, but failing to underpin these great services with strong cyber security credentials could have negative results for both the students and the university”.

To read more from our report, including citizens’ take on the threats faced by other private and public sector organisations, head here.

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About Chris Cumine

Higher Education and Research Account Manager Atos UK&I
Christiaan Cumine is the Higher Education and Research Account Manager at Atos UK&I, having joined in 2016. He is responsible for driving Atos’ innovative work with clients in the Higher Education sector and ensuring customer satisfaction with ongoing deliveries, aiming to provide the best Higher Education experience to both students and universities through digital transformation. He has previously worked with Atos’ Met Police and Ministry of Defence accounts whilst maintaining a strong interest in the cyber security sector.

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