Campus Computing Research: Security Is Never Simple

Annual Campus Computing survey cites new exposures.

THE CAMPUS COMPUTING Project released its 2006 National Survey of Information Technology in US Higher Education this past October. Among the many areas studied, the comprehensive survey of 540 US institutions reports that wireless networks now reach more than half (51.2 percent) of college classrooms. Survey responses also indicate that support for open source has inched up slightly over recent years. And the report passes along the good news that security incidents actually declined in the past year.

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Yet the security picture isn’t so simple. The report flags potential problems related to exposures of data on servers not controlled by IT: “There’s a tension about distributed computing and security protocols on many campuses,” says Campus Computing founder Kenneth Green. “Research labs, academic departments, and service units often want to manage their own data and their own hardware. But the survey data confirm recent news reports from individual colleges and universities that servers not managed by central IT services may be particularly vulnerable to hack attacks.” And the new interest in social networking brings with it fresh opportunities for incidents linked to sites such as Facebook or MySpace. Security incidents involving such sites ranged from 7.5 percent of responding community colleges to 13.7 percent of private research universities, the survey reports.

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Begun in 1990, the Campus Computing Project is widely recognized as maintaining the largest continuing study of computing and information technology in US higher education. Executive summaries are posted as free downloads each year, and the longer report may be ordered for a modest fee.

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