Engel said there are ways to monitor suspicious communication between computers.
Watching for Domain Name Systems—the starting point for most web traffic exchanges—with life spans of only a few seconds will tip off IT officials to infected computers that could be trolling for personal information, he said.
“Look at both sides of computer conversation,” Engel said. “The reply will let you know something is up. … That’s free information that we should really be paying attention to. We should be proactive and recognize that there will never be a day when we have perfect security.”
Campus technology officials say their school’s IT security has improved in recent years, despite the advances in botnets that can ravage groups of campus computers.
The Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA) surveyed higher-education computer officials at the organization’s annual conference in Atlanta last June. The survey found that eight out of 10 IT officials believe their campus infrastructure is safer than it was in 2004, with 6 percent saying they feel less secure.
Still, nearly half of respondents said their campus’s cyber security has been compromised in the last year alone, exposing at least some student information (though 70 percent of these incidents were characterized as minor).
The most common way campus IT officials deal with cyber security is by educating faculty, staff, and students about the many threats that jeopardize the privacy of network users, according to the ACUTA survey.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their campuses have computer education workshops or seminars, and Arthur said his campus’s resident assistants conduct lessons on safe approaches to accessing the local network.
Only 18 percent of ACUTA survey respondents said their schools use enhanced logins, which require faculty and students to identify icons or type letters from a graphic before they are given access to the campus network.