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KanREN tackles rise in cybersecurity threats during pandemic

Last spring – as workplaces, medical offices and schools struggled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing a variety of online connectivity solutions – another threat lurked beneath the surface. At a time when almost every aspect of our lives became more dependent on online interaction, a surge in cybersecurity incidents followed close behind, casting a shadow over the silver lining offered by online work, health and education platforms.

During the early days of the pandemic, the FBI reported a 400 percent increase in complaints regarding cyber-attacks, hacking, video-conference hijacking, data breaches, and fraud. Cybersecurity experts were quick to diagnose the problem and begin working toward a solution, but providing access to necessary cybersecurity resources was and remains an uphill climb. Fortunately, some organizations have stepped up and met this challenge head on.

KanREN, Inc., the Kansas Research and Education Network, has been offering its member organizations world-class public service connectivity for nearly 30 years and has a long history of tackling networking challenges. In response to the current rise in cyber threats, the organization extended a suite of cybersecurity services to its members at no additional cost, which includes DDoS scrubbing, Akamai ETP DNS scrubbing, Nessus vulnerability scanning, and honeypot monitoring and notification. KanREN connected members and any K-12 institutions in Kansas that join KanREN immediately were granted access to this suite of tools.

According to Cort Buffington, KanREN’s executive director, the move is simply a matter of “doing the right thing for the right reasons.” KanREN’s mission has always prioritized empowering its member organizations through connectivity and collaboration, so handling cybersecurity threats at no additional cost is “the right way to provide value, and support our community over the long-term.” Buffington notes that “KanREN is committed to helping our members focus on educating students, not worrying about cybersecurity threats.”

When many organizations observed a shift in the needs of their community during the pandemic, KanREN’s response provided much-needed peace of mind for its members. This pivot towards providing stability and security for research and educational institutions during an already-vulnerable time allows these institutions to keep their focus on education.

Kansas remains one of a few states lacking a dedicated dark fiber “backbone” for educational and other community anchor institutions (CAIs), a cause that KanREN continues to support and advance. Its efforts to enhance the future of research and education institutions in Kansas continue with a push to build more infrastructure capacity for data networking.

“Everything we do is based on a foundation of infrastructure,” Buffington added. “If not now, when? If not us, who?” As these efforts continue, KanREN members can rest secure in the knowledge that they have a strong advocate for security, connectivity, and growth on their team.”