With many schools transitioning to a hybrid or all-virtual model, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Like all businesses, institutions of higher education face cybersecurity risks. These risks can be minor or severe, and can end up with financial loss or, often worse, damage to institutional reputation.
Students need to know that they can trust their school with their personal information, whether it's transcripts or information related to student health. Institutions also have compliance issues that they have to deal with. Understanding the risks can be complex, and one of the best ways to understand and plan for those risks is to undergo a NIST SP 800-53 Risk Assessment.
NIST stands for National Institute of Standards and Technology, a governmental organization that oversees cybersecurity and privacy for all U.S. federal information systems except national security.
These standards are made public and also apply to non-federal entities that share or collect information for federal agencies. This brings even private schools under the NIST umbrella due to the need to handle federal student loan applications. The standards also help institutions know whether they are in line with current best practices. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a voluntary framework that helps manage cybersecurity as it relates to the NIST requirements.
A NIST Risk Assessment is a comprehensive audit of your cybersecurity risks and plans. The intent is to help you build a better cybersecurity program that will comply with NIST regulatory requirements and protect critical information. From the assessment you should develop a prioritized and actionable risk mitigation plan.
The assessment covers everything from training to access control to contingency planning. A proper risk assessment will also focus on areas of particular concern to ensure NIST incident response and future compliance.
For institutes of higher education, there are specific concerns. The risk assessment needs to provide a NIST risk management framework appropriate to schools, and address various concerns. These include:
Many institutions will soon be facing a GLBA audit, which makes it particularly important to check compliance now.
There are several reasons why doing an NIST risk assessment really matters, but they fall into three basic areas:
Conducting a NIST risk assessment is the fastest way to come up with a risk management plan that can mitigate existing problems, predict future issues, and develop an incident response plan to reduce the impact of a breach.
Colleges and universities are in a complicated situation; they often handle both financial and health data as well as a wealth of other potentially-valuable information. Going into a lot of detail about best practices may be beyond the scope of this article. However, there are a few things that you should consider:
The most important thing is always the education of both students and employees.
GreyCastle Security is the best company to handle your NIST 800-53 risk assessment. Our team of highly-certified cybersecurity experts who work with our higher education clients understand the constraints and trends of academia, and are specifically trained in FERPA requirements and in those standards recommended by EDUCAUSE, NACUBO and CCBOA.
We have a specific Safeguards Rule to bring you up to date on the requirements prior to any audit. We have worked with everything from local community colleges to statewide university systems. We are familiar with the needs of institutions of all sizes.
If you want to protect your institution's reputation and the privacy of your students, contact GreyCastle Security today.
Looking for more cybersecurity information for higher education institutions?
Download our free infographic to help you better understand what a NIST risk assessment can do for you and your institution or watch our free webinar about aligning your cybersecurity with your business goals for higher education institutions.