The Fiji National University (FNU) has taken a significant step in mitigating cyber risks following the establishment of a new Cyber Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) to monitor and handle cybersecurity incidents within the FNU network.

The team consists of ten Information Technology (IT) professionals who will assist staff and students with their devices. The specialized IT team will also provide consultation and assistance to other stakeholders as and when required. The FNU CSIRT was introduced during the cybersecurity awareness workshop in Suva this week.

FNU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Healey said it was important to ensure risks are mitigated. According to Professor Healey cybersecurity is becoming a bigger problem than physical crimes in most developed countries.

“The speed at which digital technologies keeps increasing, and at the same time, the cyber risk seems to evolve even faster,” said Professor Healey.

The Vice-Chancellor added that digital transformation is rapidly taking place at the university and in the country.

“Before we got 4G in 2016, people were using Nokia phones to dial each other, and suddenly everyone has a smartphone. This transformation took place in just a blink of an eye.”

“At FNU, we were running a slow network that has moved very quickly. The first stage was connecting the university to the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) that connects universities in Australia. The connection took place in 2018.”

“Through our high-quality broadband, we were able to transform our libraries into learning commons. Our students have resources available to the same way that anyone has in London, New York or Paris,” said VC Healey.

“We have a $20 million project underway, to install banner which is called University Information Management System (UIMS), a system that will move everything online including finance, HR, student registry functions and graduation will all be self-service through online. This project will finish by the middle of next year that will replace a huge amount of manual processes.”

VC Healey added that these massive investments by the university somehow makes the institution more vulnerable to cyber risks.

“We have got a digitised university in a digitised society and we are more vulnerable to cyber-attack than we have been ever before and if we cannot secure that, we are in serious trouble,” mentioned Professor Healey.

Speaking via Zoom from Brisbane, Australia, Senior Internet Security Specialist at Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) Adli Wahid said understanding the risks involved once you are online and how you managed those risks were key aspects when dealing with cybersecurity issues.

According to Wahid, APNIC, which is a regional internet registry administering IP addresses for the Asia Pacific, helps organisations recover from security breaches.

“Cybersecurity is very depressing because the system gets compromised, the information gets leaked out and business reputation gets affected,” said Wahid.

“Once you are connected to the internet, you have a lot of users on your network. Therefore, once you have information in databases, you should know what the risks involved are,” he added.

The cybersecurity expert also stressed the importance of having a cybersecurity framework that will assist people to structure their thinking and be prepared to face scenarios related to cyber risks.

“When it comes to cybersecurity, the mindset should be, thinking about the behaviour of the users and those who run the network and to make sure that we are aware of the risks involved and have taken steps to deal and mitigate those risks.”

“Previously, you may have information on pieces of paper, files and folders but now that information is perhaps online, and the whole world can potentially have access to it. If there is a misconfiguration or vulnerability on the server that can be exploited, that can lead to information leakages,” stressed Wahid.

 

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