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Unveiling Cybersecurity Risks in Higher Ed: The Legacy System Conundrum

Author: Sean Lee, CISSP

March 5, 2024

Greetings from Summit!

The last several years have seen a convergence between the higher education sector and cybersecurity, where the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedoms collide with the challenges of the digital age, and safeguarding colleges’ and universities’ sensitive data has never been more critical. Today, we shine a light on a pressing concern that often lurks in the shadows of higher education institutions – the potential cybersecurity risks stemming from legacy systems and the obscured insights into their data.

Understanding the Legacy System Challenge

Legacy systems, with their historical significance and robust functionalities, form the backbone of many higher education institutions. However, the intricate web of these systems often conceals unpatched vulnerabilities that can pose significant cybersecurity and compliance risks. The challenge lies not only in the systems themselves but also in the lack of comprehensive insights into their operations, data flows, and potential points of weakness.

The Veiled Threats

Outdated Security Protocols

Legacy systems may rely on outdated security protocols, making them susceptible to modern cyber threats. They are often no longer supported by their original vendors or developers, and therefore are not regularly updated or, in some cases, even supported by the vendor. The inability to update these systems leaves significant gaps in institutions’ overall security posture.

Limited Visibility

The complex architecture of legacy systems often hinders visibility into data flows and access points. This lack of transparency makes it challenging to identify and mitigate potential security breaches promptly.

Data Compliance Concerns

Higher education institutions handle vast amounts of sensitive data, including but not limited to student records, research findings, and financial aid information. Legacy systems may struggle to meet contemporary compliance standards, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), exposing institutions to regulatory penalties and reputational damage.

Navigating the Legacy System Landscape

At Summit, we recognize the unique challenges faced by higher education institutions. Our approach goes beyond traditional cybersecurity measures to address the specific intricacies of legacy systems.

  1. Comprehensive System Assessment: We conduct in-depth assessments to unravel the complexities of your legacy systems. This includes evaluating security protocols, data flow, and potential vulnerabilities to provide a holistic view of your institution’s cybersecurity landscape.
  2. Modernization Strategies: We work collaboratively to develop modernization strategies tailored to your institution’s unique needs. Whether it involves system upgrades, patching, or transitioning to more secure alternatives, we prioritize solutions that align with your academic mission.
  3. Continuous Monitoring and Compliance: Our services extend beyond assessments to continuous monitoring, ensuring ongoing compliance with evolving cybersecurity standards. This proactive approach safeguards your institution against emerging threats and regulatory changes.

Empowering Higher Ed Institutions

In an era where data breaches can have far-reaching consequences, Summit stands as your ally in fortifying the cybersecurity defenses of higher education institutions. We believe in empowering academic institutions to embrace technological advancements while safeguarding the wealth of knowledge they hold.

The path to a resilient cybersecurity posture in higher education begins with acknowledging the challenges posed by legacy systems. Together, let’s navigate this intricate landscape, uncover potential risks, and chart a course toward a secure, compliant, and technologically advanced future.

Stay tuned for more insights and solutions from Summit Security Group!

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