Enhancing Cybersecurity in Higher Education with BIO-key International’s PortalGuard

While cyberattacks against large financial institutions, government entities, and major corporations often dominate headlines, the higher education sector faces equally significant threats. Since 2022, cyberattacks against higher education have risen by 44%, which has resulted in substantial financial losses. In the United States alone, there were 386 cyberattacks between 2018 and 2023, costing $35.1 billion due to system downtime. Ransomware attacks have also been rampant, with 27 confirmed attacks against US higher education institutions as of May 2023. 

Amidst tightening budgets, colleges and universities must balance modern user experiences with robust security measures. BIO-key International’s PortalGuard offers a comprehensive solution to these challenges. Acting as a single, unified identity and access management (IAM) platform that consolidates disparate security solutions under centralized policies, it offers a broad range of authentication options: multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), self-service password reset (SSPR), and Identity-Bound Biometrics for an extra layer of verification.

Success Story Spotlight: Allan Hancock Community College
Allan Hancock College’s IT department was searching for a product that could streamline their SSO process, provide SSPR for students online, and secure all logins for users with access to sensitive data and information.

Like many institutions, Allan Hancock College utilizes various applications to support critical systems like learning management systems (LMS), content management systems (CMS), student information systems (SIS), and email services. As a result, the college’s user base – students and faculty – was frequently inundated with various login prompts. In turn, the process created unnecessary user frustration and password reset requests for the IT department. Finding existing solutions either costly or limited, Allan Hancock College turned to PortalGuard in 2019 as an on-premises Identity Provider (IdP) to consolidate login prompts across their many applications and address their SSO, SSPR, and MFA challenges.

PortalGuard’s flexibility enabled the college to seamlessly merge two different directories within the platform and set up SAML-based SSO to their enterprise applications like SharePoint, Office 365, and Canvas. Additionally, PortalGuard’s IdP support for various authentication protocols allowed Allan Hancock College to connect to Banner 9 through CAS (Central Authentication Service).

“We love the flexibility of PortalGuard MFA. Between some people moving away from SMS OTPs [one-time passwords] and the great variability in preference, it was super helpful to have options that worked for our diverse user base,” said Andy Specht, Interim Director of Information Technology Services at Allan Hancock College.

In 2021, Allan Hancock College successfully transitioned to PortalGuard IDaaS. BIO-key Technical Support facilitated the migration within weeks over the summer, ensuring the cloud platform was operational when students returned to campus in the fall.

Moving Forward
Implementing a comprehensive IAM solution offers numerous benefits for educational institutions, including reduced cyber risk, a simplified user experience, efficient security management, improved compliance, increased agility, and reduced IT costs. Like any other professional industry, IAM implementation challenges will always exist for higher education. Critical controls – such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) – can be difficult to cohesively put into place. BIO-key International aims to support colleges and universities in managing their cybersecurity posture through straightforward IAM strategies. To learn more about the FoundationCCC’s agreement with BIO-key International, please contact cbcontracts@foundationccc.org.

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