Cybersecurity a concern for post-secondary students

A recent Angus Reid poll launched in response to the growth of online learning, revealed that 76 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students surveyed are concerned about cybersecurity. That’s up 10 per cent from pre-pandemic times.

In fact, 79 per cent feel their university or college should be responsible for protecting them from cyber attacks. Nearly half of those surveyed said their decision to attend a university or college would be influenced if the school was known to have experienced a data breach or had a reputation for weak cybersecurity.

Accessing ransomware and hacking tools has never been easier. That’s led to a rise in well-organized and sophisticated hacking gangs able to launch attacks from anywhere in the world. Increasingly, the education sector is being targeted.

Post-secondary schools have a wealth of sensitive data including health and financial information, academic performance records, and personal student and faculty records. These institutions also have extremely valuable, proprietary research and development data and intellectual property.

The COVID pandemic forced colleges and universities to transform their digital capabilities literally overnight. Remote classrooms, research collaborations, student/teacher communications, third-party and vendor management suddenly needed distanced support.

While a quick transition helped ensure the physical health and safety of students and staff, it dramatically increased what is known as the ‘attack surface,’ which is all of the different places unprepared school networks, systems and databases could be breached.

“Cybersecurity is the latest challenge facing higher education institutions, with many students putting the onus on their schools to keep them cyber safe,” said Kevin Dawson, President and CEO of ISA Cybersecurity in an email interview with “Interestingly, 44 per cent of respondents say their school doesn’t provide enough training and resources to help ensure students’ personal information is protected from threats, yet only 49 per cent say they follow the guidelines that their academic institutions do put out.”

Ransomware attacks doubled in 2021

The study follows a recent…