On the Defense; How UW IT Protects Data
The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees got a crash course in cybersecurity at the university by Vice President and CIO of Information Technology Robert Aylward.
The presentation came amid a series of measures taken by the state and the university to bring cybersecurity and computer science to the center stage in Wyoming.
Aylward gave the trustees a comprehensive look at how IT maintains the university’s cybersecurity across the university network, saying it’s no small task. The network includes 600 servers and 6,157 workstations on the university campus. Twenty-five terabytes of information flow to and from and within the campus everyday – which Aylward said is more information contained in all the 16 million books in the library of congress, which is 10 terabytes.
Aylward said the data IT protects is very sensitive and personal, such as medical and student information as well as financial data. Aylward said IT defends this data daily against a wide array of threats, such as hacking, phishing and malware.
The primary defense against these threats is the campus firewall, which Aylward said permits 90,000,000 connections a day. It also denies 50,000,000 connections a day, which he said are comprised of denial of service attacks and attempted intrusions.
“They’re looking for vulnerabilities on the campus network and they are going to attempt intrusions,” Aylward said.
It also employs Network Intrusion Detection Systems to detect malicious behavior on the network and has separate networks, for example a separate student housing network or the guest network, to keep potential threats off of the main network. Other cybersecurity measures are more familiar to the layperson, such as two-factor identification, which adds another layer of log-in security.
These are but some of the measures used to help to keep the immense data on UW’s network safe from threats and Aylward said every one of them is necessary.
While the cybersecurity tools used by IT are extensive and generally effective, Aylward says they can always improve. IT has goals to increase its cyber security and efficiency, while providing access to traveling faculty and staff. Aylward said IT’s goal is to improve the UW network’s ability to recognize devices trying to access the network, as well as the location of those devices. Many students and faculty who are traveling often have issues accessing the network.
“One of the big problems we have are traveling faculty and students,” Aylward said. ”Because they travel all over the world. So we can’t just block Nigeria, for instance, because undoubtedly, there’s somebody from the university who’s in Nigeria and needing to get access for some reason or another.”
Increasing security awareness is also on the list of future initiatives for IT. They are working to have required security training for all employees, which Aylward said is critical for employees to have. They will also offer security seminars for departments upon request.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems is also something that Aylward said is showing great promise and will be useful in the future of cybersecurity.
UW has taken steps to bring cybersecurity to the forefront – including approving a cybersecurity certificate which will be available for students in the fall. Having the certificate is one of the requirements to get UW recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.
Governor Matt Mead spearheaded the efforts to encourage high school students to participate in the “High School Girls CyberStart Challege” – a program sponsored by the SANS Institute designed to help students learn to protect digital assets while honing technology skills.
In April, the Wyoming Department of Education announced the creation of Boot Up Wyoming 2022, which is an initiative to facilitate the addition of computer science to school courses, after a new law was enacted by the state Legislature mandated that computer science be taught in every school district by the 2022-23 school year.