As the number of "bring your own devices" keeps growing at colleges and other schools, academic IT departments are finding it increasingly difficult to stave off malware, bot attacks and a variety of other cyber-threats. Several educational institutions across the U.S. have turned to Hewlett-Packard's TippingPoint network security solutions for help.
Schools that have adopted TippingPoint offerings include Chicago's Loyola University, California's Irvine Unified School District and the Collinsville (Illinois) Community Unit School District 10. They say HP's software and services have helped them to defend against the millions of cyber-threats they are seeing 24/7.
By the nature of what they do and the audiences they serve, colleges are particularly susceptible to a range of computer viruses and other threats. Students bring devices to classes, communicate with one another and their instructors online, and -- increasingly -- participate in virtual courses offered out of campuses that might be on the other end of the country or even the other side of the globe.
College IT Environment Is 'Hostile'
In the eyes of college IT administrators, all these factors contribute to an increasingly high-risk environment.
"The university IT environment is a hostile network with tons of devices trying to connect to it," said Brett Weston, Information Security administrator at Loyola University in Chicago. The school has determined that each student connects an average of 4.5 devices to its network...and with nearly 16,000 students from all 50 states and 82 countries, that's a lot of potential for IT trouble.
Since adopting HP's TippingPoint, Loyola has "been able to block an average of 2 million threats per week," Weston said. With the addition of TippingPoint's DVLabs, which provides customers with weekly updated "digital vaccines," the university has been able to block up to 8.5 million threats a week, Weston added.
HP's TippingPoint offerings include several separate types of protection against cyber-threats. They include an intrusion prevention system, firewall and DVLabs services, as well as a security management system.
The intrusion prevention system, for example, has helped the Irvine Unified School District -- one of the fastest-growing K-12 districts in the U.S. -- block threats to a network with more than 8,500 workstations serving a student body of 30,000.
"Our network was being attacked 24/7 by malware, click fraud and other cyber-threats, which was affecting online research and operations," said Lance Auman, information security architect for the school district. TippingPoint's intrusion prevention system, he added, has helped the district block threats "without interrupting school operations."
Similarly, TippingPoint's firewall helped the Collinsville school district in Illinois to respond quickly to a malware attack.
"We were put to the test right from the start when an end-user downloaded malware that created its own spam filter, and the entire district was unable to receive e-mails from external sources," said Mike Kunz, director of technology for the district. TippingPoint, he said, "enabled us to identify the machine and mitigate the infection."