As pandemic hit, MFA protected University of Newcastle’s digital transformation

Several Australian universities have reworked their cybersecurity and access control approaches in response to the rising number of attacks in education.

access management / access control / user connections / identities
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Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s University of Newcastle was considering a major infrastructure refresh as it went all-in with the cloud. But as students and staff were sent home last year, its investment in adaptive multifactor authentication (MFA) proved critical in helping university staff continue securely teaching its far-flung students despite escalating attention from cybercriminals.

And other universities—including Victoria University—have likewise upgraded their cybersecurity approaches around access control in response to escalating attacks in the education sector.

With more than 330 business applications in use across the university’s portfolio, providing a consistent signin process was critical as these applications were shifted to externally accessible cloud platforms, solution architecture manager Jimi Reilly told CSO Australia.

“We previously had a bunch of small apps that were developed by individual business units, and we wanted to bring that together into a consistent digital channel,” he said. “Part of that was recognising that, from a user experience perspective, it was going to be much easier in that mobile ecosystem if we had a really robust and reliable single signon (SSO) technology.”

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been better: Just two months before COVID hit, the university switched on MFA for users accessing its network using secure virtual private network (VPN) services—which rapidly became the de facto standard for workers as they were shunted back home for what would be nearly a year.

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