Northern College first school to adopt national cybersecurity standard

Many post-secondary institutions are vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to CyberCatch, a firm tasked with getting small- to medium-sized organizations up to date with Canada's new standard for cybersecurity.

Northern College is the first in Canada to sign up for the firm's program, which scans for vulnerabilities, fixes them and teaches staff how to be safer online.

"The bad guys — criminal gangs or frequently foreign governments, actually — have realized that the educational institutions don't have good cybersecurity because they don't think they'll be attacked and are vulnerable," said CyberCatch's founder and CEO Sai Huda.

"(Our system) identifies these kinds of vulnerabilities and helps the educational institution fix them, so the attacker cannot exploit it."

The firm's recent study scanned more than 12,000 organizations across North America for cracks in their cyber shields and discovered that around 80 per cent of them were vulnerable.

Amongst post-secondary institutions, the study found around 70 per cent could be devastated by hackers.

Though many schools upgraded their digital technology to make online learning more accessible during the pandemic, Huda said most left cybersecurity by the wayside in assumption that they wouldn't be of interest to online attackers.

Aaron Klooster, Northern College's vice-president of academic and student success, said while the college has been mindful of cyber security, having a prescribed system that can identify and solve an extensive list of vulnerabilities is reassuring.

"We know there are instances across North America, where post-secondary institutions were targeted," Klooster said.

"It's really a matter of making sure we don't get caught in a position like that and protecting, not only ourselves and our employees but, of course, our students."