Data Breaches in Higher Ed Prove Costly

Data Breaches in Higher Ed Prove Costly

Security and data breaches affect all markets, but the cost of a data breach in higher education has far-reaching consequences. The average cost of a data breach in the education sector is $3.86M (2022). The unfortunate reality of higher education is that they are both a prime target, due to the necessity of personally identifiable information (PII) to their mission and the multitude of potential breach points. PII is a very lucrative target. This equates to a much larger radar footprint for would-be cyber criminals. Data breaches in higher ed prove costly. We’ll provide insights into available solutions to help mitigate this serious situation.

Costly: Apparent Costs

Security breaches typically come with a variety of ancillary costs. The direct cost of the breach may result in ransomware payments and remediation costs. It typically spurs the organization to adopt additional measures in an effort to stave off future attacks. We’ll discuss more on this reactive approach later.

Costly: Hidden Costs

Not all costs are readily visible, however. Schools may also experience indirect costs, such as lost productivity, legal fees, and reputational damage. These additional outlays are what drive the cost of the data breach ever higher. An organization should not only have a comprehensive security plan in place but also plans for managing situations in the event of a security incident.

Data Breaches: If or When?

Experts in this arena have been saying for more than a decade that it’s “not a matter of if you’ll experience a cyberattack, but when.” According to the Cybersecurity Ventures report, there are an estimated 2,200 cyberattacks happening every day. This means that every 39 seconds, a business somewhere in the world is being attacked. Per the Ponemon Institute, there were an average of 1,605 cyberattacks per organization per week in the education and research sectors in 2021. This is a 75% increase from 2020. That statistic, coupled with industry forecasts of increases in cyberattacks of 15% year-over-year paint a serious picture as to the costly nature of data breaches in higher education.

Other Impacts to Higher Ed

Cybersecurity initiatives are absolutely crucial to mitigating or even avoiding the effects of cyberattack. Some of the key problems as a result of incomplete or non-existent action include:

  • Students’ personal information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, could be exposed to unauthorized individuals which could lead to identity theft and other financial crimes.
  • School operations could be disrupted, as systems and data are taken offline. This impacts teaching, learning, and other essential school activities.
  • The school district could be held liable for damages caused by a data breach, leading to potential costs associated with identity theft, credit monitoring, and legal fees.

What Steps to Take

“In war, prepare for peace; in peace, prepare for war.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Make no mistake. Whether you think so or not, your organization is in a battle. The spoils of war include your stakeholders’ PII, your institutional reputation, and more. It is important for institutions of higher education to take steps to protect themselves from cyberattacks. The best time to prepare for battle is during times of peace. The decision-making when not urgent is thought-out and on-point. Reactive decisions are prone to overreach, faulty data, and missteps.

Here are some of the most important things schools can do now to mitigate or even prevent a cyberattack:

  • Implement a layered security approach that includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption.
  • Train staff on cybersecurity best practices.
  • Conduct regular security assessments.
  • Have a plan in place to respond to a cyberattack.


Although data breaches in higher ed can prove to be costly, you have help. There are several options available in the marketplace designed to help higher education deal with potential cyberthreats. With all the noise, your own internal constraints and limitations, and the availability of these options, partnering matters. Moreover, partnering with the right fit matters more. You need a subject matter expert who understands the nature of cyberthreats, your network’s strengths and vulnerabilities, and your team’s ability to incorporate a holistic solution to the threats that are out there now and how they continue to evolve.

If you’re looking to strengthen your defense and mitigate the costly effects of your own higher ed data breach, we should be talking. Contact PKA today and let’s start the conversation.