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Tue 7 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Universities particularly vulnerable to IT threats

Regional educational institutions need to be better protected from malware, according to the managing director of security specialist Trend Micro Middle East.

Speaking at the recent Women in IT conference, organised by the Dubai Women’s College, Doo explained how viruses threaten university computing infrastructure, as well as outlining what students and staff can do to reduce such risks, and the overall benefits of operating a secure network.

Universities, claimed Doo, are particularly vulnerable to threats as college computers often are often more open to the public internet than corporate systems yet still offer high-speed connections to the web.

“College campuses typically have thousands of computers and few staff dedicated to maintenance and security issues,” Doo explained. “Administrators say that makes it extremely difficult to monitor what’s happening on every single server and desktop connected to a university system. Academic institutions want to maintain the free exchange of ideas and information between faculty, students and researchers, both on campus and from university to university. At the same time you can’t just put a whole campus behind a firewall. That presents a challenge for keeping networks secure.”

The first priority toward maintaining the appropriate balance between security and freedom, said Doo, is “to educate users on security risks.” This is where Trend Micro’s university campaign comes in, as the firm and its staff aim to educate institutions about how to best protect their systems.

Trend Micro’s claim is that computer users in universities are under attack from spyware, adware, hacker tools and other unsolicited applications that are often installed without the user’s permission or knowledge. Besides designating a senior administrator to oversee IT security, Doo claims regional universities need to define, communicate, update and enforce university wide security policies. In addition, all network users should use anti -virus software and security considerations need to be included in every IT project.

“Universities also need to determine a proper strategy to apply software patches and security fixes in a timely, automated manner,” Doo said. “By creating awareness on online security challenges and the growing threat of spyware, we can help universities maintain their open environments so that students have the freedom to collaborate on research with universities in any other part of the world.”

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