Technology has transformed the way students learn and driven great change in education and academia. It has also enabled access to information from outsiders, a situation that previously did not exist. With so much sensitive data stored on servers and devices, a breach can expose financial data, personal contact information, and the intellectual property created by students and educators.

But as those institutions’ technology needs have evolved, the government has intervened. In recent years, governments have put increasing pressure on colleges and universities to safeguard data. London’s Brunel University, like many educational institutions, found itself in need of a cybersecurity program without the resources to build one. That’s where Exabeam came in.

About Brunel University

Brunel University is a respected research university in London. Founded in 1966, the school currently has an enrollment of 12,900 students and 2,500 employees. A decent chunk of the university’s annual income is from grants and research contracts, which brings the need for accountability for its security policies.

As with many colleges and universities, Brunel has seen tremendous growth over the years without having tech policies that keep up. Policies were in place to protect the institution’s infrastructure, including acceptable use. But Brunel University had its eye on the level of security found in the private sector, which meant they needed expert help.

Brunel University’s unique challenge

In addition to accountability to its donors, students, and employees, Brunel University, like many universities, dealt with increasing pressure from European governments to come up with a security policy. Universities challenged by their limited resources had been underinvesting in cybersecurity for decades, instead using funds to support their educational efforts.

“Governments across Europe were putting the onus on universities to do more to protect the information they held, the high-end intellectual property and data that, if harvested, could end up being costly,” – Michael (Mick) Jenkins, Chief Information Security Officer, Brunel University London

Playing catch-up wouldn’t be  easy. Brunel University wanted to build a world-class security operations center (SOC), but they were starting from scratch. They didn’t have security information and event management (SIEM) tools in place. Lacking the internal resources necessary to build the setup they needed, Brunel University began looking for a top-notch vendor to put things in motion.

Brunel’s requirements

Brunel University wasn’t completely without a security infrastructure. The university had a data center, along with network monitoring tools. But they needed a way to take their cybersecurity practices to the next level.

The first consideration was budget. Universities operate within a strict budgeting structure, so while it was important to come up with a state-of-the-art information technology plan, Brunel also needed to keep an eye on cost. They opted for moving to a unified platform supported with SIEM.

The chosen vendors

For its unified platform, Brunel University chose Cisco, but they knew they needed software for cybersecurity. Exabeam’s combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning was the perfect fit, allowing Brunel to get the advanced analytics they needed while still keeping their cost, and their IT team, relatively small.

But the cost savings goes beyond the initial setup. Exabeam uses a flat pricing model, which means Brunel can continue to enjoy the same benefits as they grow without seeing a significant increase in cost. The platform also makes it easy for Brunel’s team to piece together cybersecurity incidents, simplifying investigations without requiring the hiring of additional experts.

Another thing giving Brunel University confidence in its choice is Exabeam’s continued investment in improving its cybersecurity solutions. The team at Brunel knows that the tools will only become more effective over time, but cost will remain the same. So it’s an investment that will continue to pay off.

“The future research and development going into the Exabeam suite of products, and the investment going into their automation tools was something that we felt we had good assurance of, that year upon year that we were gonna get good value out of it,” – Michael (Mick) Jenkins, Chief Information Security Officer, Brunel University

How tools help the team

Although Brunel University has a great security team, the SOC was a new environment for many of them. They were scaling from a data center to a full operations center, which meant 24-hour threat monitoring. Without the right solution, it would have been a major adjustment for the small team.

With Exabeam, Brunel University was able to quickly adapt. The solution is not only easy to use, but it also automates many of the processes that would previously have needed to be done manually. That meant even without expertise, the Brunel University IT team had time to learn and grow into their new environment.

The Brunel University team now has the resources necessary to protect its data. Not only did Exabeam help Brunel meet its budget, but they now also have the tools in place to meet future challenges.

Brunel University’s CISO, Michael Jenkins, was previously featured on “The New CISO” podcast. Check out the episode here.

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