Jenga - Uni Campus Network Security

University Tech: Are you playing Jenga with your network security?

Axians University IT blog series  

Network security can be a hard game to play – and win.

Every move needs to be carefully planned and each piece lined up, in order for you to come out on top. But instead of approaching network security in a strategic and future-proofed way, many universities could be jeopardizing their success by unwittingly playing Jenga with the security of their IT network. Whilst the game starts with a nice, neat pile of blocks, all supporting each other, it doesn’t take much for the picture to change and become unstable.

Making the first move

Securing the campus network is a full-time job, and with multiple moving parts and variables, we know it can be hard to keep up. Much like a Jenga tower, every move made by students and staff alike can have serious consequences for the stability of the network.

Any holes in the perimeter can leave the network compromised and exposed to increased risk of attack from malware or a data breach. The continuous addition of connected devices and new services to keep up with student and staff demand can also add strain. The use of both on-premise and cloud services adds complexity to the security management challenge. As with the ever-growing Jenga tower, each new layer added to the network can affect its ability to function, leaving it at increased risk of crashing down at any moment.

Securing the network at every stage of its incarnation, is as important as enabling students and staff to play the game. We know how vital a robust and reliable network is for teaching, learning and living whilst on campus, but alongside the opportunities, universities also have a responsibility to secure the component parts that make-up their network. Not only for the safety of users but the financial and reputational consequences that holes in security could bring. Any breach could have serious implications for brand reputation and future intake levels. Universities need to ensure their protection stays complete however the network grows, especially when students leave or new users access the network.

Keeping the network from collapse 

The key is to keep all the blocks lined up, with no gaping holes which could leave the perimeter vulnerable. No matter what moves are made or demands thrown at the network, it needs to remain stable. But unlike rigid building blocks, the most stable networks also need to be agile to cope with future needs. This can only be achieved by understanding and having full visibility of all parts of the network, ensuring it is secure by design.

Our work with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco is a great example of where the network needed upgrading to meet student and staff demand, and to support the university’s mission of becoming one of the most important education and research sites in Morocco. To enhance and secure the student experience, the university wanted to put in place an advanced world-class information and communications system based on a complete IP infrastructure.

To meet the brief, Axians designed and installed a local network for the entire university campus (providing fixed and wireless access) and deployed a single, unified voice and data communications system. At every stage of the process, robust security solutions were factored in, ensuring every layer was stable and impenetrable to threats.

Building a stable future

No matter what stage of the digital transformation journey you are at, demands on your network will only continue to grow. From using technology to make lectures more engaging, to the reliance on devices and the championing of innovative technology, and being part of smart cities – the role of security to support each layer, however complex, is vital and must also move at the same pace.

Securing services and safeguarding those using the network is paramount, to mitigate any associated risks which might jeopardise the success and future stability. Any gaps need to be filled and each new layer as robust as the one before.

Rather than a bolt on, security needs to be part of the build process, to add strength and robustness at the core of technology adoption. Innovation can only really thrive and be a success if supported by a strong foundation, where risk is minimised and mitigated. With universities constantly having to justify and make the most of any investment in technology, providing confidence in the security of systems will help them compete for the best students and staff. Whether it’s in-house of cloud based services, the security of all systems will be vital for continued success and buy-in.

Reach2020 University Network Security

Next Generation Architecture: REACH 2020

To help institutions implement network security in the right way, our REACH 2020 approach is designed to provide the agility and adaptability needed to grow. We work collaboratively with universities to understand the needs, priorities and challenges of their network, to build an adaptable and agile architecture to support the modern university. Understanding and providing solutions for key network security challenges such as the control of IoT and BYOD devices, secure segmentation for multi-tenanted environments, detection of cyberthreats and management and analytics, are all addressed so technology adoption and its associated value is not limited by potential risks.

The growth of the technology tower shows no signs of slowing, so now is the time to get the security scaffolding right to make it as robust and rewarding as possible. The sky’s the limit!


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