Technology is key to securing physical and cybersecurity

Issue 1 2023 Education (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management

Conrad Steyn.

The interpretation of security in educational institutions depends on whom you are talking to and whether their focus is on the physical security of the institution, its assets and its people, or if one is looking at security from an information and communication technology (ICT) perspective.

When looking at the physical aspect, technology is playing an increasingly important role in improving security systems at educational institutions. Beginning with access control systems that ensure only those who have the necessary permissions can enter, while also providing a more secure way in which guests (and anyone else who is not a student or a staff member) can enter campus, and automatically disabling their ability to access the premises when their visiting time has expired.

It is also essential to have a well-lit campus covered by security cameras, which can act as a deterrent against criminality and reassure students and campus staff that their safety has been taken into account. In fact, various studies have revealed a significant reduction in crime when security cameras were introduced in particular areas.

Today, education institutions can turn to next-generation artificial intelligence-powered video surveillance, which involves specialised network/Internet Protocol (IP) cameras that will further help prevent unauthorised persons from gaining access to the campus. This is because these cameras can perform advanced analytical functions, including facial recognition, face detection, person detection, traffic and people counting and vehicle detection through automatic licence plate recognition (LPR).

Information security is also critical

Then, there is the challenge of cybersecurity: today, the vast majority of young people are connected to the internet, primarily through mobile devices, with being active and sharing content on social media being a key component. This makes them especially vulnerable to cyber criminals who wish to exploit them, using techniques such as social engineering and identity theft.

While they may not be responsible for a student’s actions when they are not on campus, institutions still have a responsibility to protect confidential student data such as names, ages, physical addresses, ID numbers and bank details. Not adequately secured, this data can be used by cybercriminals for activities such as identity theft and financial fraud. As such, raising awareness and educating students on how best to protect themselves online should be a part of any educational institution’s student safety strategy.

Educational institutions need to look at investments in security, such as next-generation firewalls and enforcing multi-factor authentication for people to access their internal network and data. In the longer term, these organisations can look at implementing these measures alongside a well-thought-out cloud infrastructure strategy, where they start relocating some, or all, of the institution’s data to a cloud data centre.

Not only does this add further layers of cybersecurity, but it also contributes to improving physical security, as institutions no longer have to worry about the safety of their IT infrastructure, rolling blackouts or even occurrences such as hardware failure.

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