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Opinion Piece

Universities’ constructive free flow of information might be its undoing in current state of cyber crime

JOHANNESBURG – February 6, 2017 – Hacktivism 101 was a mean lesson taught at education facilities in South Africa last year. Not only were there more than 300 hacking attempts on the Gauteng Department of Education’s new online learner application system, but also tertiary education facility, the University of Limpopo fell victim to a serious cyber attack, taking down its entire website as part of the #OpAfrica campaign. The hacker even stated that the university’s security “sucks”.

So, as students, academic staff and administrative employees enter the learning gates to South Africa’s tertiary institutes – both physically and virtually – to kick off the new academic year, thought must be given to especially one of the widest ranging threats to an educational institution’s information infrastructure today: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks – specifically, DDoS as a smoke screen as a diversion tactic for the invasion and exfiltration of business data.

“Tertiary institutions hold a plethora of personal records. Birth dates, ID numbers and more of both current and alumni are electronically stored by these facilities. Also, many of our universities are research institutes and hold valuable intellectual property – making them a prime target for cyber crimes. The University of Limpopo hack for example leaked exam, intranet data and personal details of both alumni and faculty members,” says Bryan Hamman, territory manager for sub-Saharan Africa at Arbor Networks, the security division of NETSCOUT.

The need for collaboration and the free flow of information – the very foundation of higher education – makes network security a tremendous challenge. Institutions have the daunting task of securing multiple open-networks used by different departments, off-campus facilities, students, faculty and staff.

According to Jamal Bethea, marketing insight analyst at Arbor Network, educational institutions can be subject to fines, class action lawsuits and remediation costs in the aftermath of a successful cyber attack. “Many times institutions are required to pay for forensic examinations, information call centres, and even free credit and identity monitoring to those affected,” he says.

It is clear that these attacks will continue this year, and so security needs to be at forefront of every South African institutions’ overall business plan.

“In the end, a comprehensive multilayer DDoS defence solution that can protect network availability, can also help prevent data breaches by blocking outbound activity from compromised hosts,” adds Bethea.

“Prevention is certainly far less damaging than lessons learnt and a negative result on reputation,” concludes Hamman.

Arbor solutions are available throughout Africa – please contact Bryan Hamman, territory manager for sub-Saharan Africa at Arbor Networks at bhamman@arbor.net for more information.

About Arbor NetworksArbor Networks, the security division of NETSCOUT, helps secure the world’s largest enterprise and service provider networks from DDoS attacks and advanced threats. Arbor is the world’s leading provider of DDoS protection in the enterprise, carrier and mobile market segments, according to Infonetics Research. Arbor’s advanced threat solutions deliver complete network visibility through a combination of packet capture and NetFlow technology, enabling the rapid detection and mitigation of malware and malicious insiders. Arbor also delivers market-leading analytics for dynamic incident response, historical analysis, visualization and forensics. Arbor strives to be a “force multiplier,” making network and security teams the experts. Our goal is to provide a richer picture into networks and more security context so customers can solve problems faster and reduce the risks to their business.

To learn more about Arbor products and services, please follow us on Twitter @ArborNetworks. Arbor’s research, analysis and insight, together with data from the ATLAS global threat intelligence system, can be found at the ATLAS Threat Portal.

Trademark Notice: Arbor Networks, the Arbor Networks logo and ATLAS are all trademarks of Arbor Networks, Inc. All other brands may be the trademarks of their respective owners.


Networks Unlimited, Chriselna Welsh, +27 (0) 11 202 8400, chriselna.welsh@nu.co.za

icomm, Debbie Sielemann, +27 (0) 82 414 4633, debbie@pr.co.za, www.icomm-


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