Colleges and universities are losing the battle against malware, according to security firm OpenDNS, which reported that networks run by higher education institutions are three times more likely to be infected than government agencies or businesses.
The most common threat is Expiro, software that can replicate itself, steal disk space, and slow computer memory to a halt. The malware can also corrupt data, steal personal information, and erase hard drives.
“Our research shows that while higher education institutions face the same cyber-attacks as enterprises and government agencies, they tend to be compromised by malware and botnets at a much higher rate,” Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer at OpenDNS, told Campus Technology during the Educause 2013 conference. “Clearly, colleges and universities must operate more open networks and support an endless number of access devices, which puts them at higher risk.”
Hubbard suggested that “fundamental security best practices” can reduce infection rates, such as alerting users when spear-phishing appears, an e-mail fraud that seeks unauthorized access to confidential information. Institutions should also use analytics to block access to malvertising (online advertising that spreads malware) and watering holes (sites infected with malware).