VeriSign Goes to School

Officials at VeriSign announced a new program for
universities with security issues Tuesday, offering discounts to
institutional members of Educause.

The Mountain View, Calif., IT services company is providing the non-profit
organization discounts on its managed PKI service for
authenticated user provisioning and digital certificates.

The service is available through Educause’s Identity Management Services
Program (IMSP), which provides colleges and universities with identity
management services at cut-rate prices.

Educause officials were not available at press time to talk about their
program and the extent of the discount available to its institutional
members.

George Schu, VeriSign vice president of strategic development, said
university networks are typically very open, a reflection of the open
culture at these institutions of higher learning. The trade off, however,
is they are subject to more cybercrime issues.

Universities that do institute security solutions, as they increasingly
must, are finding it’s costly to implement, he said.

“The fact is, trying to do it in-house at a university is very costly
because the investment in the infrastructure, the training to run that
service and keeping pace with the development of PKI is very hard to do,” he
said. “They found that out, I don’t want to say the hard way, but they have
real experience in discovering that fact.”

Data theft and hacks are becoming an all-too-common occurrence. The past
year has seen a growing number of reported data compromises, notably with
data broker ChoicePoint and financial giant Bank of
America
.

The breaches have attracted Congressional scrutiny with government officials
calling for tougher protection standards and disclosure from vendors who keep track of private information.

Learning institutions can also be greatly affected by security breaches.

According to figures presented by VerSign officials from an October 2004
report by Gartner Research, universities and colleges have proven to be
attractive
targets for malicious hackers. The report shows 53 percent of those polled
said they had experienced a denial of service attack .
Nearly half, or 41 percent, reported their systems were compromised while 14
percent reported unauthorized access to student information data.

Depending on the size of the school, these hacks can lead to a large amount
of compromised data.

Last month the University of South California (USC) reported 270,000
online applications were exposed
after someone broke into the database
in June. Information on those applications included names and their social
security numbers.

In March, Boston College purged
the social security numbers of its alumni from a database after network
administrators discovered a hacker had broke into one of its on-campus
systems.

VeriSign officials said they are offering other IT security programs in its
security portfolio, including its managed security and unified
authentication services, through Educause, but not at a discounted rate.

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