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Your Daily Briefing, a New Feature for Chronicle Subscribers

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 9, 2017 - 2:55am
We've started a new email, for subscribers only, that briefs readers on everything they need to know in higher ed to start the day. Here's a sample.
Categories: Higher Education News

U. of Michigan Says Racist Emails, Purportedly From Professor, Were Forged

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 8, 2017 - 2:18pm
The messages appeared to come from a computer-security and privacy expert who had advocated recounts in several states following the election of President Trump.
Categories: Higher Education News

Words can be intimidating: Cybersecurity and Our Role in Higher Education

WCET Frontiers Blog - February 8, 2017 - 11:12am

Today we welcome Mike Abbiatti, the executive direction of WCET and WICHE Vice President for Educational Technologies, to WCET Frontiers. Mike will discuss the term cybersecurity in higher education, why we should care about protecting privacy and data, and actions we can take to protect ourselves and our students from various data attacks.

Thank you Mike for bringing these important issues into the light!

Look for more from WCET in the upcoming months regarding privacy and data protection in higher education!

Enjoy this post,


The term “Cybersecurity” has multiple meanings and associated connotations throughout the Higher Education community. To the technical community, visions of hardware, software and specific technical skills take center stage. In administration, Cybersecurity means enormous risks and costs associated with internal and external threats that impact students, faculty, staff, and donors. They must plan for the relatively new investments in cyber insurance and trained staff. To the faculty, cybersecurity means a specter that can be invoked by clicking on an unfamiliar (or seemingly familiar) link or attachment. Or by intentional sabotage by an unhappy employee or student. There is certainly more interpretation of the term Cybersecurity across our enterprise.

For the purpose of this blog post, I will dispatch with the term Cybersecurity and replace it with Privacy and Data Protection (PDP). After all, our community is in the business of providing access to curated content and credentials. We don’t prefer to delve into the infrastructure (that’s what IT folks do) and we aren’t impacted by the high level administrative issues……or are we? Is PDP so compartmentalized that we don’t need to worry about the topics addressed by IT and the institutional administration?

Why Should We Care about Privacy and Data Protection?

We are going great guns developing and distributing meaningful content all over the world! We are significantly responsible for bringing students of all ages, philosophies, localities, and backgrounds to the institution with every kind of technology known to man. The fact that technology moves from the home to the campus today is a great boon to technology-enhanced education, especially online delivery. So why should we care about Privacy and Data Protection?

Well, one needs only to do a few cursory (no pun intended) Google searches, or read some local news, one would see the risks that are inherent in what we do so well every day.  Our programs are clearly in the center of PDP because we present ourselves as a lucrative target for cyberthieves, and we are not spending much time or resources on protecting our information from would-be wrong-doers.

We collectively assume that the role of technology is to enable higher education to lead the way into the future. Perhaps, the most unexpected and unregulated aspect of our progress is PDP. We are so proud of the mountain of data we collect on students, graduates, faculty, staff, donors, and potential donors, etc., we have overlooked the importance of having well thought-out and supported strategies that help us manage what we see today. We thereby have a much better chance of responding to challenges in the future. We would not expect less of our medical care, banking system or travel/transportation systems.

We are experiencing expensive ransomeware attacks, Denial of Service outages, theft of intellectual capital and attacks aimed at unsuspecting staff and students resulting in identity theft and all manner of undefined problems that seem to be on the increase in Education. It appears that the bad guys have the high ground at this point in history. The very open and trusting nature of our world has resulted in Higher Education being labeled as a Soft Target by law enforcement and the bad guys/girls.

Strategy and Actions to Protect Ourselves

Our current inability to protect our important information from bad actors can be mitigated by a clear Cybersecurity (or PDP) Strategy composed of three areas of responsibility operating together with a common vision.

First, we must accept the fact that our individual responsibility for protecting information is the foundation for success. We must educate ourselves about what to do, and what not to do to thwart and report both internal and external cyberthreats. The external hacker is not as dangerous as the internal employee threat. Furthermore, the internal threat is characterized by unintentional actions on behalf of good-intentioned employee that expose personal and organizational data to external criminals. Long-term costs are very high and increasing.

Second, teams and operational units in higher education who design and carry out projects must accept the responsibility to protect critical data. We must reject the old mindset that IT is responsible for such things. In our world, we are bringing more new users of digital infrastructure than any other campus unit. In my humble opinion, our organizations should be raising the flag, and helping lead the way forward in being sure Privacy and Data Protection are front and center.

Third, our organizational leadership must accept the responsibility to provide the policy framework and resources required to make the Cybersecurity Strategy successful. Financial and political (policy) support for an effective PDP environment are critical.

Ask These Questions. Take Some Action.

In summary, Privacy and Data Protection in technology-enhanced education, particularly online education, is a real challenge with real consequences for failing to recognize the threat(s).

I will leave you with two interesting questions:

  1. What is the cost of a data theft event in higher education? Remember, the cost is not totally measured in dollars.
  2. Secondly, who is responsible for PDP Strategy on your campus?

If you will take the time to answer these questions, then I predict your viewpoint on working with IT, and administrators to be sure each level of responsibility is active will change.

Technology-enhanced education is both a blessing and a curse. Let’s empower ourselves and our students to benefit from the blessing and minimize the curse. It takes the entire institutional team to accomplish this complex mission. The WCET membership represent the tip of the sword in this ongoing battle.




Mike Abbiatti
Executive Director, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
WICHE Vice President for Educational Technologies





Big 12 Conference Withholds Funds From Baylor U. Over Title IX Scandal

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 8, 2017 - 11:04am
The conference's governing board voted unanimously to not give the university 25 percent of its revenue distributions, pending an outside review of athletics procedures and governance.
Categories: Higher Education News

Betsy DeVos Survived a Historic Confirmation Fight. What’s Next for Higher Ed?

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 8, 2017 - 2:55am
Some experts wonder how much lawmakers will be able to get done on higher education, given their competing priorities and the bitterness over the new secretary’s selection.
Categories: Higher Education News

How a 20-Page Letter Changed the Way Higher Education Handles Sexual Assault

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 8, 2017 - 2:55am
The Obama administration’s influential "Dear Colleague" letter on sexual assault reflected a desire to make assault-prevention a national issue. Here’s how that document was born.
Categories: Higher Education News

Fear and Loathing in the Campaign’s Wake

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 8, 2017 - 2:55am
How a polarizing election, a free-speech fight, and a real-life internet troll made the U. of Washington turn on itself.
Categories: Higher Education News

DeVos, Whose Nomination Brought Historic Controversy, Confirmed as Education Secretary

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 7, 2017 - 10:28am
After a contentious confirmation process, Betsy DeVos finally received Senate approval to serve as education secretary in the Trump administration.
Categories: Higher Education News

U. of Alaska President Gets Second Vote of No Confidence

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 7, 2017 - 10:19am
Amid a budget downturn, Jim Johnsen has angered faculty members who say they have been left out of decisions about consolidating system resources.
Categories: Higher Education News

In Courses on Dystopian Literature, Everybody Wants to Talk About Trump

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 7, 2017 - 2:55am
The new president and the era of "alternative facts" have started to creep into English-literature classes across the nation.
Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges Get Unusually Large Share of Biggest Donors' Contributions

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 10:01pm
Nearly half of giving by the country's most generous philanthropists went to higher education, with $1 of every $5 benefiting elite universities with multibillion-dollar endowments.
Categories: Higher Education News

Decline in Giving by Individuals Last Year Kept College Fund Raising Flat

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 10:01pm
American universities raised $41 billion, barely more than the previous year. Harvard led the way with nearly $1.2 billion.
Categories: Higher Education News

Heading to the South by Southwest Edu Conference Next Month?

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 2:07pm
Join editors and reporters from The Chronicle of Higher Education at a three-part morning of programming on Thursday, March 9. 
Categories: Higher Education News

Former UVa Dean Is Named Sweet Briar's First Permanent President Since It Nearly Closed

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 1:07pm
Meredith Woo will lead the women's college, which almost shut down in 2015, starting this spring.
Categories: Higher Education News

3 Professors Are Fasting to Protest Their University's 'Silence' on the Travel Ban

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 12:11pm
A court's recent suspension of the ban, affecting citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, makes the Clemson University protest all the more important, the professors say.
Categories: Higher Education News

State Spending on Higher Ed Continues Upward Trend

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 2:55am
After plummeting in 2012, state spending on higher education has ticked upward for the fourth consecutive year.
Categories: Higher Education News

Agriculture Dept. Removes Animal-Welfare Data From Website

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 6, 2017 - 2:55am
The agency will no longer post "inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research-facility annual reports, and enforcement records" for 7,800 facilities, including more than a thousand labs run by universities and the government.
Categories: Higher Education News

Universities Spoke Up in Case That Led to Ruling Halting Trump’s Travel Ban

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 5, 2017 - 8:07pm
The University of Washington, Washington State University, and the community and technical colleges of Washington all submitted statements to the court about how the ban was affecting them.
Categories: Higher Education News

Reunions and Sighs of Relief as Some Stranded Students Return to U.S.

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 5, 2017 - 8:07pm
A court ruling on Friday opened a window for some who had been caught off-guard by President Trump’s travel ban.
Categories: Higher Education News

4 Parent-Education Programs and Their Lessons for Colleges

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 5, 2017 - 4:31pm
Don’t lecture to parents, and offer them scholarships as attendance incentives.
Categories: Higher Education News


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