Security breaches are rarely out of the news and with these reports come the significant costs resulting from each attack. However, the immediate thought is often associated with a dollar amount; for example how much money are we forfeiting through lost sales? Consequently, many think that private enterprises are the only ones that are prone to be at risk of attacks on their networks. The fact is public sector, educational institutions and non-profit organisations are just as much at risk and the potential costs are both great and varied.
While there may not be as many financial transactions undertaken in the public sector, or by educational institutions, as there are by a commercial enterprise, these organisations do utilise their networks to transact data and at times, large amounts of data. In the case of a government department, this may be in the form of personal data of its constituents. For an educational institution, it could be a key research project or vital intellectual property (IP). While this may not have any immediate dollar value, if it is missing or has been stolen, then the concerns for those that own the data may feel the same if there was a direct and tangible financial cost involved.
There is no doubt that the nature of an attack on the network has become more complex recently. Moreover, the origin of these attacks has also changed. They are no longer the work of independent hackers chasing notoriety. Attacks are becoming more organised, more structured and come from organised groups (at times, state sponsored as well) who are after financial gain by either direct methods or through obtaining data or IP to profit from.
One such example is a university and the detrimental impact an attack on the network could have on its operations. More often than not, professors and researchers are conducting projects that may be in collaboration with other universities either locally or internationally. As such, there is a lot of IP that would be traversing over the network. If this IP is stolen via a security breach, the impacts on the university would be more than just the loss of the IP. Such a breach would have a negative impact on the reputation of the institution, which would affect those that want to work with them collaboratively and the researchers that would want to put their name to that institution. This would cause an impact on potential enrollments that would lead to a decline in both their rankings against other universities and funding both from student fees and private and public sector sources. The result is that the university is then constantly on the back foot and put up as a poster child of what ‘not’ to do; which has been the fate of many a commercial organisation that has been impacted by a security breach.
For this reason, organisations such as Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd. (REANNZ) have recognised how important it is to safeguard the network so that member universities can conduct research activities securely. They understand that what these institutions do is not only valuable, but also is at risk by those who want to access valuable IP. REANNZ also recognises the importance of being proactive in these security measures rather than waiting until there is a breach, by which point it is too late to save valuable information from being lost or sold for financial gain.
Regardless of the industry, whether for profit or not-for-profit, all organisations are increasingly becoming dependent on their network for delivering reliability and security. As such, all organisations should be looking at how they can increase the level of visibility that they have in the network, to better manage their network and identify any breach as soon as they can, as well as expediting the resolution of any performance issues. This could be the difference between enhancing your organisation’s reputation and damaging it irrevocably.