Unsecure university database puts student information at risk

City State Top Story

Old software in universities makes student information easily accessible to cyber-crimes and security threats.

Bengaluru: Old technology, used to store student information in universities, is making the student database vulnerable to hackers and cyber-attacks. 

Software needs regular upgrades in general and if not updated on time, it is prone to cyber-attacks. Bangalore University’s (BU) server is holding the data of all the examinations since 2003. This system has not been upgraded since its installation with no available support.

This data which is usually the personal information of students along with their academic records is precious. Prateek Mishra, Data Migration Specialist at eClinical Works Ahmedabad says that it is a difficult task. He said “Any corporate entities can buy this out. There are high chances that this data might be sold out to international markets or dark web sacrificing privacy and violation of rights.”

In addition, colleges and universities in Bangalore are issuing data migration tenders to transfer valuable student information from one software to another. 

Colleges say that delay in data transfer will result in loss of valuable student information from the university’s database.

One such data migration tender of Bangalore University (BU) states that if student data is lost it will be a major issue for their exam section.

Along with BU, data migration tenders of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore are also out. The administrative desk of Christ University and Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) suggests that they are planning to release their data migration tender soon. 

The administration desk of Christ University said, “With the implementation of National Education Policy, it is mandatory for colleges to have an academic bank of credit for students.” This system will allow students to transfer their credits if they want to change their institution, desk added.

Pan India colleges are moving their data to public and private clouds. Almost all the software used by universities is java based and developers say that institutions are already transferring their data to the cloud for safety. Sanket Jivtode, a Software Developer at Accenture Bengaluru, says that the official support for Oracle-9i has ended. 

Abhijeet Shrivastava, a computer engineer from BU says that their university is planning to move from software Oracle-9i to 12c which is a heavy shift. This migration or shift will also involve an upgrade in the operating system, he added. 

To handle such detailing of any software, Universities have technical staff to help them. BU’s tender mentions that there is an unavailability of technical consultants for their present operating system. K. Jyothi, registrar of BU says, “This tender is still ongoing. The database is not supportive which means there is a high chance of critical examination data loss.” She mentions that this will put the overall BU reputation in problem.  

Presently, the BU staff only work with Oracle-9i and they don’t operate any upgraded software.

 Once most of these staff members retire, it would be difficult to migrate this data as the university is yet to hire and train their replacements, as mentioned in the tender for new recruitments.  

Stating the conditions of technical consultants in Bangalore; Prashant Vaishnav, technical consultant at Salesforce Bangalore says that the work of a technical consultant is just to collect all the information and build a demo system to check whether the system will work or not. “To handle software like the ones in universities, it totally depends on whether the staff members have enough knowledge about the subject. It is not essentially the work of a technical consultant to perform this job,”  he added.    

He said, “Oracle 9i is not really obsolete, but it can’t meet the businesses’ current needs.” Cloud has a variety of tools for data visualization and clean-up that may assist institutions in more than one manner of dealing with big volumes of data, he added. 

The process of data migration involves data to be extracted from a system and then validated with the clients on its accuracy. This data is further cleaned and up for transfer. 

Data migration as a complete process takes around 15-20 days. Mishra added that not many freelance data migration engineers pick this work because these software are expensive and for huge data transfers (like that of a university) there is a need for utilities that can transfer the data in a single go. 

Abhijeet Shukla, system engineer at Infosys Bangalore, emphasizing on institutions enhancing their systems says that these days cybercrime takes a toll on previous versions. He further adds, “BU’s previous version was installed in 2003. So, at that time security was not a main criterion as we were still on the verge of the internet. The upgrades work like this, all the time they don’t include new features but include security features and their reliability in terms of cyber-attack.”