3 Higher Education Identity Management Challenges

What are the three most persistent higher education identity management challenges? How can your education organization benefit from next-generation identity management and privileged access management? 

Higher education, as a vertical, poses distinct challenges for identity management. A university could have thousands of students as IT users, not to mention faculty, alumni, and staff. Therefore, size alone would create challenges. However, there are far more cybersecurity challenges for educational institutions to overcome. Here are the top three. 

3 Higher Education Identity Management Challenges    

1. Legacy Education Identity Infrastructure 

Many high education institutions, including colleges and universities, rely on older IT and identity infrastructures. As such, their environments suffer from the same issues as other older infrastructures; namely, it becomes creaky. Indeed, older IT environments become increasingly difficult to maintain as their providers move to newer versions. This can rapidly increase the costs of maintaining that environment and any legacy identity management solutions. 

Additionally, older identity management solutions and older IT infrastructures suffer from disappointing or frustrating user experiences. This can become a serious problem for both users and IT security teams. For the latter, trying to handle potential security events or investigate alerts becomes either tedious or difficult—both of which cost valuable time. For the former, this makes even the login process challenging, which incentivizes vulnerable workarounds. 

Finally, older identity management infrastructures and solutions can’t keep up with the deluge of new cybersecurity threats. Identity is the most frequently attacked vector in most networks, with 81 percent of attacks beginning with weak or stolen credentials. Without a next-generation identity solution, your higher education institution may remain at risk.    

2. Student Lifecycle

Part of the challenge of higher education identity management is the built-in rotating user base. After all, students are expected to undergo relatively frequent changes to their roles. Every year they literally change ranks, and some of them may become alumni. Meanwhile, some students may become teachers’ assistants or student teachers. In fact, some students may hold multiple positions at the same time. 

Moreover, you need to authenticate and secure users’ identities across multiple—possibly hundreds—of applications. As students change classes and transition to new roles, your identity management needs to automatically process their lifecycles. Therefore, this can alleviate some of the burden facing your IT security team.        

3. Unusual Privileged Access Structures

For higher education identity management, a challenge emerges with privileged access. This problem becomes more apparent with larger institutions, but even small colleges face this issue. At a university, each school and college has its own faculty, students, and alumni. Therefore, your network may straddle the line between centralized and decentralized structures. 

So who should possess privileged access in this kind of organization? More importantly, where should those privileges begin and end in the network? High education identity management must conform to the Principle of Least Privilege as much as any other organization. 

Next-generation identity management solutions, including privileged access management and identity governance solutions, can help. The latter especially can help with maintaining the Principle of Least Privilege by granting visibility into the permissions of all your high-level users. With this visibility, you can revoke unnecessary permissions and ensure temporary permissions stay temporary.     

To learn more about higher education identity management solutions, check out our Identity Management Buyer’s Guide

Ben Canner

Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Ben Canner

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