SplunkTackling the threat of cyberattack could create opportunities for innovation

Tackling the threat of cyberattack could create opportunities for innovation

Universities must walk the line between keeping data secure and ensuring it can be used to improve teaching, learning and research outcomes

In September, the National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning to universities to keep a closer eye on their data after estimates emerged that about a third of institutions have fallen victim to cyberattacks. At the same time, universities are dealing with a fivefold increase in the quantity of data they handle over the next five years.

At last month’s THE Live session on cybersecurity, in conjunction with Splunk, panellists discussed how universities can maintain control over their data while still making it an accessible and usable source of insight and innovation.

Mark Woods, chief technical adviser at Splunk, pointed to the company’s recent survey of 2,000 leaders and technology executives, revealing that 86 per cent did not feel prepared for surges in data volume over the next five years. The pandemic and resultant shift to online learning have also focused attention on “the interconnectedness of systems, how we share data and whether universities are prepared”, Woods said.

Tom Crick, professor of digital education and policy at the University of Swansea, argued that many universities had ambitions to be free and open in sharing knowledge but had to deal with concerns about security and consent, particularly regarding student data. “From a pastoral and academic perspective, it’s possible to create a more bespoke or customised kind of learning through data, and [for students] the concern is probably who has access to the data and how is it used,” Crick said.

Making data and processes secure by design, rather than locking down in reaction to unusual events, could help institutions derive greater benefits from the data they have. “Sometimes we create barriers for ourselves when we could be saying, ‘this data can be available when appropriate – what more can we do with it?’” Woods said.

Organisations should develop a flexible culture around data security, Crick explained: “At Swansea, we have a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches. You need a declaration of intent from leadership so that the importance of digital is recognised, but you also need a bubbling up of innovation and creativity from below.”

Woods advised that universities develop a “closed-loop vision”, offering three key points of advice. “We often start with the technical vision, but what we need is to be service-focused,” he said. “First, focus on what impacts users or limits decision-makers – does data serve both? Then you need to reinforce, share and scale what works. Finally, build holistic data capability and capacity.”

The entire session is available above and on the THE YouTube channel. You can also access all the THE Live UK material here.

Find out more about Splunk.

Brought to you by