Why Higher Education IAM Needs Zero Trust

Bruce Macdonald

January 28, 2021

Even though the Zero Trust model has been around for more than a decade, the term can still confound and even put off some technology teams. However, higher education’s emphasis on identity and access management (IAM) paired with the Zero Trust model’s strict controls are an ideal match for higher education.

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to build a true Zero Trust environment without a strong IAM strategy and IAM goals can only benefit from the guidelines that Zero Trust demands. Together, IAM and Zero Trust allow schools the agility they require to meet their unique cybersecurity needs while maintaining as secure a system as possible to keep the personal data of students, professors, administrators, and more protected against breaches. Many technologies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), analytics, risk scoring and strong encryption are needed to ensure the success of a Zero Trust program.

How to Ensure the Success of a Zero Trust Program

Get a Better Handle on Complex Lifecycles

A focus on the identity of users is inherently built into identity and access management for universities. With flexible, transient student and faculty populations, they’re responsible for the private data of countless individuals at any given time. This goal makes it a natural fit for Zero Trust, which relies on strict controls for each and every user.

To optimize the Zero Trust model within their user lifecycles, universities should focus on the strict provisioning of users with strong authentication and authorization. An IAM platform that allows simple management of multi-factor authentications can make the most of an IAM and Zero Trust collaboration.

Optimize Automation

In many cases, introducing a Zero Trust model means exchanging the more common network-perimeter security for an access per application method. Stricter authorization guidelines are a cornerstone of Zero Trust.

However, this case-by-case approach to access may seem like a non-starter for universities because of their high turnover rate as a result of student matriculation. The first step is to impose enhanced governance policies which reduce the access rights users need to an absolute minimum to accomplish their specific tasks. Then, IAM automation helps schools solve this challenge while maintaining the restrictions required to maintain a Zero Trust architecture and secure critical data.

Mitigate the Impact of Breaches

The fact remains: Regardless of how tight restrictions are, no system is unbreachable. That being said, should the worst happen, a Zero Trust environment does help lessen the impact of a breach. Its tight authorization restrictions and strict access controls at the identity level mean most breaches can be easily contained to a handful of users. That’s good news for schools as cyberattacks continue to increase in volume and complexity.

Better Together

With the continued increase in cyberthreats faced by colleges and universities (made even more critical by the spike in remote access brought on by the pandemic), the rise in interest in Zero Trust security architectures is certainly not surprising.

To succeed with Zero Trust and IAM, schools need a solid foundation of security technologies. For colleges and universities, that foundation is an IAM solution that truly meets all of their data privacy needs. As we prepare for Data Privacy Day, this dynamic duo is the perfect pair to keep colleges and universities a step ahead of hackers now — and well into the future.

You can learn more about how Zero Trust and IAM provide the cohesive cybersecurity solution modern organizations require in our recent webinar: Complete Your Zero Trust Mission Using a Single Pane of Glass. Join our next webinar on March 4th