Update: Cyber Attacks Increasingly Prevalent at Universities, Reputations at Risk
Fitch Ratings, a global leader in credit ratings and research, recently commented on the prevalence of cyber attacks at colleges and universities across the United States and the reputational risks these institutions face as a result of media attention. We saw several significant breaches over the last year or so, including at the Indiana University when the private information (names, addresses, Social Security numbers) of 146,000 students and recent graduates was compromised. Also in early January of this year as discussed in a previous blog article, 309,000-plus individuals’ records – including social security numbers, birthdays, and university ID numbers – were exposed by a sophisticated cyber attack on the University of Maryland.
Although these larger institutions make headline news, Fitch says that smaller private institutions with fewer resources and more operating challenges are particularly exposed to data breaches because they may have weaker security systems in place and a less prepared management team. “Larger institutions with greater resources and strong management practices are likely better prepared to deal with or prevent them, due to the scale of their operations,” cites Fitch. However, both large and small institutions could be more at risk if such an event were to occur given the sector’s public profile and the negative publicity surrounding this type of event. This can ultimately negatively affect a school’s reputation and impact enrollment numbers.
Moreover, colleges and universities are likely to continue to attract hackers because of the wealth of information contained in enrollment and financial aid applications. This includes students’ and their parents’ personal information such as addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and proof of income. What’s more, Fitch highlights the fact that on-line portals for tuition and other payments are sometimes linked to credit card and bank account information and passwords – which, of course, attract hackers.
Fitch also underscores the need for systems security, technology investment and management awareness and involvement at the forefront of an educational institution’s agenda. Also important, of course, is the placement of Cyber Liability insurance. Not only is Cyber coverage important for educational institutions to pay for notification costs, forensics, remediation expenses and preventive actions but also for crisis management that includes media relations and PR.
At Caitlin Morgan, we specialize in offering insurance programs for educational institutions, including Cyber Liability coverage. We provide coverage to many types of educational facilities including universities, public schools, private & charter schools and schools for special needs. Contact us at 877.226.1027 to discuss your insureds’ specific needs and how we can help address the exposures they face.