BYOD is a college favorite in today’s learning settings, and is rapidly trending across the country.
It gives students the freedom to utilize their favorite mobile device, supports devices that teachers are comfortable handling, fosters collaborative learning strategies and widens the spectrum of ways that students can participate in distance learning.
But while BYOD is powering college learning, it is also giving power to malicious hackers and viruses to take over a campus’s connectivity and target any network weak spots.
“The problem with BYOD is that you don’t control the end points,” says Matt Santill, Chief Information Security Officer at Broward College. “If we can restrict the access, we can protect [students, faculty and staff].”
The good news is that colleges are now able to control their BYOD networks to protect students, faculty and staff from cyber-attacks.
One way colleges can do this is by using the ForeScout CounterACT platform.
The platform works to secure and manage all devices connected to the college’s network, regardless of which device, hardware and software is utilized on campus. It works to enhance network security while promoting a non-invasive control so users can still enjoy a customized experience.
Sandeep Kumar, Principal Solution Manager of ForeScout Technologies, Inc. says that the platform offers unprecedented visibility to what’s on a college’s network, and allows the departments that work with the platform define access control policies.
“Once you define your own control policy, you assess it, remediate deficiencies and define in an endpoint,” he says. “You can set [up a computer] to get automatic updates, inform administration, and [define] a range of policies.”
Most importantly, Kumar says that the ForeScout InterACT platform creates a real-time visibility to keep administrators and students informed.
“You can’t have a BYOD strategy without access network control,” he says.
Santill says that the ForeScout InterACT platform enables administrators to see who is using the network, and which devices they are using to access that network.
“The goal [with the platform] was visibility,” he says. “We wanted to see every device connected on the network, who’s connected to the device, what device is being used, who the user is.”
Even though Broward College is made up of around 68,000 students, four to five campuses and six to seven satellite locations, Santill says that ForeScout InterACT still has been able to stretch its protection. Plus, he says that the platform was easy enough for his team to integrate.
“It was a simple setup process,” he says. “This is one of the main reasons we went with CounterAct.”
Santill also says that the platform is noninvasive, and can do its job without interrupting students’ internet usage.
“CounterAct just sits there, listens to traffic, and determines what devices are connected,” he says. “It never hurts the bandwith, and there are no performance issues.”
ForeScout CounterACT also comes with Threat Protect, which detects intruders within a college’s network.
“You can see who’s scanning, whether it’s a mailbot or spam outside the college,” Santill says. “You can block whoever is scanning, or if a students has a virus on their machine.”
The app provides step-by-step instructions on how to react if an emergency, such as inclement weather or a shooting occurs on campus. Colleges are able to curtail the app to create a personalized and branded list of safety procedures, as well as send a mass incident report out to students and the rest campus during a panic.
Koren Kandanian, Director of Emergency Management at Providence College says that the In Case of Crisis App is supported by smart devices, including iPhones, Androids and Kindle Fires.
“In Case of Crisis gives layers,” he says. “You can download [the security information] to your phone as a PDF,” or access the information in the form of tiles, bullets, maps, and live social media streams.
Kandanian also says that the app is also used as the CARE App, which can be used to alert a safety committee if a student is suffering from stress or depression, and needs psychological counselling.
Once a student uses his or her own device to send a text or call the safety committee about a struggling student, the committee examines the alert to see if that student needs an intervention, or just needs to be watched.
Kandanian says that app allows students to send these referrals through a secure email network, where the student of interest’s information is kept private from others that are connected, but still seen by those on the committee.
“Safety and security is a big picture,” he says. “It’s not just physical.”
Kandanian also says that the In Case of Crisis App will succeed in protecting the college’s network because of its openness to users.
“Everything is transparent,” he says. “Transparency is key.”
Tips to Make Your BYOD Network Secure
Understand Your Connection
Santill says that colleges should be aware of the capabilities of your BYOD network. For example, colleges should understand who is connected to the network and what device they are using to connect to the network.
That way, the college is able to control which sites faculty, staff and students are connected to.
“If a student is connected with a student-owned device, you can give them access to only the internet,” Santill says. “If it’s a faculty member, we can give them access to the internet and teaching resources.
“We’ll know who you are, what your device is, and we can restrict access.”
Know Your Devices
When a college is familiar with which devices are constantly used on campus, Santill says they are able to detect the early stages of hacking, and block the hacker.
“Sometimes, it’s not even malicious,” he says. “Sometimes students come with a virus on their machine and don’t realize it. We send them a message to say that have a virus and to get that cleaned up.”
Keep Hard Copies
In case of aggressive hacking, it’s a good idea to turn to old security techniques, such as keeping hard copies of the information that is available on your college’s network.
Kandanian says that Providence College keeps printed PDF files containing safety/security policies and procedures readily available in classrooms. Even though this technique is used by older folks who don’t have or use smart devices, the rest of campus still has another way to view material.
“You can still have information in classes and can still have information by phone,” he says. “You can’t rely on one source for information.”
Practice the Crawl-Walk-Run Approach
Kumar says the crawl-walk-run approach will help a college learn what is on their BYOD network, see what devices are connected and employ network protection.
“You have your [protection] product in place, but you don’t enforce anything,” Kumar says. “There are no disruptions with users and you gain visibility.
“Once you understand the network, you take action,” Kumar says. “You start enforcing compliance in a nonintrusive manner,” such as updating antivirus software.
“This also doesn’t stop or disrupt activity,” he says. “This is the informing stage, no action is taken.”
“Strong enforcement is involved,” Kumar says. “For example, if a student is violating a policy, you can take a stronger approach and disable that app [they are using].”