In 2020, a pilot project was carried out among a limited group of end users to create more awareness of information security among staff and students. This was followed up by a campaign for all students and staff in 2021. Iwan Holleman, division director of Information & Library Services (ILS), points out the two components of good digital security: “On the one hand, there are the technical measures we take, such as the tool we have implemented to intercept phishing emails. On the other hand, it is important that staff and students are fully aware of what they can do to work and study safely. That’s why we are continuing our awareness campaign.”
The growing focus on digital security is also reflected in the establishment of a new security organisation. In 2021, a Security Operations Centre (SOC) was set up to play an important role in monitoring internet traffic. This was done in close cooperation with the national SURFsoc . The high value of Radboud’s SOC was already demonstrated in December by the professional handling of the worldwide Log4j vulnerability. The SOC uses an advanced monitoring system (also set up for Radboud University in 2021) that warns if unauthorised persons are ‘at work’ on Radboud systems. Often, the system can detect cyber attacks early (and automatically) so action can be taken quickly.
In a year in which working and studying from home was the norm, the ICT Helpdesk once again played a vital role. Ten people were on standby to deal with the many remote digital problems faced by staff and students working from home. Holleman: “This team was invaluable in this pandemic year. Their work cannot be praised highly enough.”
In the second half of 2021, the online collaborative environment Microsoft 365 became available. There, staff and students can do things like work together on documents, chat, video call or create team sites. Holleman: “End users indicated that they really needed a place to work together on the digital campus, so we expect that this new environment will be used intensively. The possibilities of this web environment will be further expanded in 2022.”
Online proctoring off the table
Online proctoring continued to be a hot topic in 2021. This digital surveillance system is used to monitor whether students cheat during exams. The software has access to the student’s microphone and webcam, and it can detect which programs are running on the computer. The university was allowed to use this software under strict conditions until the summer, but in the 2021-2022 academic year, the plug was pulled at the behest of the Works Council and the Student Council.
The participational bodies for students and staff had expressed serious objections to the system in 2020, mainly because of the breach of privacy. After winning a dispute last year about the powers, the participational bodies were given the right of consent, which means the Executive Board must respect their ‘no’ vote.
The participational bodies’ objections were supported this year by the results of a survey of almost 2,500 students. For instance, 69% of the students viewed this form of online surveillance as more stressful than an ordinary exam.
More figures from this survey: 79% of students felt sufficiently prepared for sitting an exam with online proctoring. Almost half (48%) consider it to be a suitable instrument for fraud prevention, 26% do not, and another 26% are neutral.
Exams could still proceed from September 2021 onwards because universities were allowed to organise in-person examinations following strict rules. For example, an exception to the maximum group size was made for exams; the maximum group size for normal classes was 75 people.