Securing Student Information Systems Critical to Protecting Data

Higher education institutions run on data, using information for admissions to alumni relations and everything in between. Colleges and universities deal with mountains of data coming into their institutions from email and social networks, for instance, and they are working to harness the power of all the data with advanced analytics, which both helps them make sense of all the information and enables them to glean actionable insights to help them optimize operations, evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and programs and improving ROI in different areas. Institutions also maintain extensive student data.

Colleges and universities use Web-based student information systems (SIS) to keep student data online so they’re available and accessible to teachers, students, administrators and parents. During COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions, these systems became invaluable because stakeholders could access student data – including admissions, academics, financial aid, account and billing, graduation and career placement – from anywhere. While the pandemic forced institutions to shift to a remote teaching and learning model, schools that had an SIS in place that allowed remote accessibility didn’t miss a beat.

Student information systems can also help safeguard data, which is a constant target of cybercriminals who seek to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to the enormous collections of data for nefarious purposes. Earlier this month, Howard University suspended classes after information technology personnel detected a service disruption that was identified as a ransomware cyberattack. Although Internet service was disrupted throughout campus, leaving more than 11,000 students and teachers without Wi-Fi, it is not clear if any personal information was stolen. Nevertheless, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warn that attacks are on the rise.

Institutions are attempting to keep one step ahead of the attacks with their SIS, looking to solutions that can both successfully manage student data while keeping the information both accessible and safe. In turn, SIS providers are working to bolster their offering’s security capabilities to give schools some peace of mind that their student information is adequately safeguarded.

“Organizations and institutions are quickly adopting cloud-based systems that let their users access data from anywhere. Of course, the number one concern is how do we keep that data safe?” said Jon Bakke, Head of Global Field Operations at MariaDB. “A database-as-a-service (DBaaS) makes that easy, helping institutions and companies store and process data in the public cloud of their choosing while also putting certain safeguards in place to ensure confidentiality and integrity of the data.”

Cloud-based student information system provider Campus Cloud Services has migrated to MariaDB SkySQL as its cloud database running on Google Cloud Platform and SkyDBA. Campus Cloud manages all student data in a single place, across admissions, academics, financial aid, accounts and billing, graduation and career placement.

The company’s CEO, Dan Knoble, noted that the rapid shifts in daily operations during COVID-19 restrictions were especially challenging for smaller, non-traditional colleges with limited IT resources. Campus Cloud caters to these schools and was able to help several remain functional during the pandemic with instant access to cloud systems that are accessible anywhere. “Having run MariaDB on our own dedicated bare metal for a long time, we migrated to the cloud with SkySQL to meet our growth and performance challenges,” he said.

Campus Cloud’s Chief Technology Officer, Sasa Skoko, stated that data security factored into the choice to migrate. “SkySQL’s database firewall, dynamic data masking and other enterprise security features prevent data breaches and stop accidental and malicious queries from flooding the network and database, Skoko said. “This is key in handling sensitive student data and personally identifiable information protected by federal laws.”

Next week see how a cloud-based SIS fueled Ohio’s Eastern Gateway Community College massive growth.