Security overhaul underpins Navitas' new digital campus

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Security overhaul underpins Navitas' new digital campus
Source: Navitas

Global education provider goes online.

Australian-headquartered education provider Navitas has launched a new digital campus to complement its work with 70,000 students across 23 countries.

Navitas’ global head of information security, Gavin Ryan, said the launch was complicated by bring your own device (BYOD) policies, a rise in malicious cyber activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increasingly complex field of data regulation and legislation.

“The education space, especially with international students, has been significantly impacted because of border closures, and that’s the sort of why we introduced our digital campus so that, in a nutshell, we can bring the Navitas experience to students whilst they’re at home,” he told iTnews.

“But also we can use it to assist and facilitate the seamless transition back onto campus when the time is right for our students.

“We could not have moved to create that digital campus without the right foundations in place and for us CrowdStrike Falcon is a foundational component to the information security environment that we run.”

Navitas first deployed CrowdStrike when it began an overhaul of its legacy audiovisual environment three years ago, using the deployment of new systems as a chance to rethink its security environment.

Ryan said CrowdStrike was chosen following consultation with Gartner and a review of the security vendor’s clients with a similar footprint to ensure it would be suited to the diverse demands of the education sector.

“For example, researchers are generally very collaborative - working together is part of what they do.

“And therefore you need to cater for individuals working off different platforms so that you are then able to secure those platforms.”

Importantly, Navitas needed a cloud-based security solution that was platform-agnostic, with staff and students preferably not even knowing it was there.

“So for example if you’ve got a platform like Microsoft Teams, but as we’ve seen in this instance people have started using Zoom, security cannot get in the way of those researchers working, and that’s why we need tools like CrowdStrike that work in the background.”

Ryan said the security team has generally been more conscious of changes to student and staff behaviour even before the launch of the digital campus thanks to coronavirus, and has had to adjust the way it accounts for risk as a result.

“In terms of bad actors jumping on board unfortunate circumstances, we also saw that in Australia because of the bushfires," he said.

“They can leverage these circumstances to get their messaging out, say phishing campaigns, and therefore drop malware onto devices of unfortunate individuals who may have fallen for that campaign they were running.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in that, and along with that you’ve got individuals working in an environment outside the office - from home - where they’ve got increased distractions like children or other individuals or the washing machine might be on, the dishwasher - all of these distractions might be playing into the hands of bad actors by causing us to let our guard down.”

Ryan credits CrowdStrike’s automated responses for rebuffing attempts to gain access to Navitas’ systems, especially in an international environment where it’s difficult to maintain responsiveness during peak activity times at its colleges in different timezones.

However, Navitas can’t just rely on generalist security advice and adopt strategies used by larger enterprises in the future, Ryan said.

“Years ago, we looked to financial services because they were the leaders around the world in terms of security.

“But now you’ve got an increase in awareness of privacy, things like GDPR and mandatory data breach notification, impacts the education sector as much as it impacts other sectors.

“We also feel the loss of proprietary information regarding the latest research that other sectors don’t.

“And what we generally see is an increased volume of individuals making an effort to try and obtain our research rather than trying to do it themselves - so there’s that sort of nuance to the education sector.”

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