Cyber attacks on universities and colleges have been increasing at an alarming rate – and it’s not difficult to see why. Higher education institutions have long been known as repositories for valuable data, such as advanced research in fields like health, technology, and science, not to mention the personal information of faculty, staff, and students. University IT staffs, already stretched thin by increasing workloads, are hard-pressed to keep up with every piece of malicious code and phishing attempt, or even to make sure that software is properly updated and patched.

But there is hope: although attackers have advanced technology and techniques at their disposal, security has evolved too. Protecting a University network doesn’t require a PhD, just a thorough understanding of the problem, and how recent advances in security can fill holes traditional solutions fail to address.

Securing University networks is a unique challenge due to the openness and flexibility demanded by academia. Students, staff, and faculty are likely working with collaborators from all over the planet – a restrictive security policy infringes on the learning experience. Aside from digital knowledge sharing, members of your university community are traveling the world, connecting to and downloading from unsavory and unsafe networks – and bringing those possibly infected devices back home to the university network.

These issues add up to one impossible equation – how do you proactively protect devices within your network from advanced cyber attacks when you barely have time to remediate existing issues? Anti-virus alone isn’t enough, and traditional proxy-based appliances can’t handle the bandwidth modern universities demand, nor do they scale at the rate you need. The answer is simple, and possibly right overhead: the cloud.

Cloud-delivered security is ideal for higher education, as it meets the specific needs of an academic institution, without feeling like “big brother”. With a cloud-delivered security strategy, you can protect your networks without bulky boxes that eat up more person-hours than malware. Lightweight solutions, like Umbrella, can significantly reduce administrative overhead – meaning that you’ll have more time to inspect what’s really going on in your system, and prevent malware, botnets, and phishing attempts from running rampant. It’s also incredibly easy to scale with the cloud – provisioning new devices takes a few minutes, and you’ll never need sizing guides or endless refresh cycles or hardware upgrades.

Other industry advances, such as big data analysis and implementation, are ensuring that cloud-delivered security is as effective, if not more so, than traditional methods which focus on detection and prevention. Security should be proactive, not reactive – by the time you react, it’s already too late. With cloud-based security, the focus switches from detect-and-prevent to prevent-and-contain – keeping bad actors out, and preventing compromised devices from sending data to botnet command and control servers. Umbrella, which operates on the network layer, can prevent malicious behavior by blocking dangerous traffic to and from your endpoint devices, whether they’re on- or off-network.

Whatever your current solution may be, exploring the benefits of switching to a secure cloud gateway should be a priority for any higher ed IT team – because you should be able to enjoy security without sacrifices.

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