West Virginia University is a leading institution of higher education and West Virginia’s land grant university, with campuses in Morgantown, Beckley and Keyser. WVU has an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students and is distinguished as R1 by Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the highest research category for an institution (details at About WVU). WVU conducts a variety of educational,administrative, research and outreach activities, and is subject to compliance with multiple regulations.
Developed initially for financial institutions, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) was enacted to protect consumer financial privacy and limit disclosure of their non-public personal information (NPI). GLBA defines financial institutions as businesses that offer financial products and services.
Although WVU is primarily an educational institution, it is significantly engaged in brokering and servicing loans to its students. Therefore, WVU meets the definition of a financial institution under GLBA and is responsible for implementing appropriate controls to safeguard NPI associated with those activities.
Compliance is a complex and time-consuming process, especially in an institution with the size and complexity of WVU. Information Technology Services (ITS), WVU’s central information technology unit, coordinates all elements of the university’s information security program and works closely with WVU’s Office of General Counsel and other campus stakeholders to identify the nature and scope of compliant activities. Alex Jalso, Chief Information Security Officer, is responsible for not only protecting sensitive and private information of students, faculty and staff, but also for considering what might be on the horizon for compliance.
Even though WVU had not received notice of an impending audit, “I knew the day would come when we would be asked what we have done for GLBA compliance,” said Jalso.
GLBA guidelines require that WVU implement a comprehensive written information security program that includes administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect information collected in the brokering and servicing of student loans. The university needed to have a formal evaluation to demonstrate its effectiveness in assessing risk, and once risk is estimated, take action to manage identified risk elements.
For more than 10 years, CampusGuard has been focused on the complex information security needs of higher education
and, even more importantly, the implications of compliance with the myriad requirements of government agencies and industry sectors. WVU engaged CampusGuard in 2015 for PCI DSS compliance, resulting in a mature program and partnership that includes an annual support agreement. When CampusGuard’s Customer Relationship Manager suggested WVU could take advantage of the program to work on GLBA compliance, WVU readily agreed. “Because of our prior experience with CampusGuard we knew their approach, and what the deliverables would be. I took them up on it,” Jalso said,
“because I knew that sooner or later someone would be auditing our compliance.”
CampusGuard staffed the project with a Customer Advocate Team comprised of the Security Advisor and Customer Relationship Manager who had previously supported WVU’s PCI DSS compliance, continuing the close partnership. This team organized an interactive approach to align timelines, maintain a responsive stream of communication and ensure smooth coordination with WVU’s team over the course of the assessment. With the right team in place, and a solid communication plan between CampusGuard and WVU, the groundwork was established for the assessment and follow-up activities.
CampusGuard conducted the GLBA risk assessment and analysis against the requirements of NIST Special Publication 800-171, a key criterion of WVU. “My one request was that CampusGuard’s findings would be delivered cross-referenced against the NIST SP 800-171 framework,” explained Jalso. WVU had previously made the strategic decision to start working towards being NIST SP 800-171 compliant. All audits are cross-referenced to 800-171 controls.
Amanda Griffith, Assistant Director of Governance, Risk and Compliance, led the efforts to prioritize activities and develop remediation plans. One of the key objectives was to define the scope of GLBA compliance and document where NPI was collected. “We needed to understand where to focus our efforts by identifying the specific activities WVU conducts that are in scope of GLBA compliance,” Griffith said.
Through this approach, WVU and CampusGuard determined that Student Financial Services would be the primary focus. Even though other departments may be collecting student NPI, it was not for the purpose of facilitating student loans.
After conducting on-campus interviews and reviewing relevant documentation, CampusGuard delivered a comprehensive report. The report identified the greatest risks to the institution and where initial remediation efforts should be focused. A second section detailed findings of risks that were found across multiple or all departments, and the third provided a breakdown for each department so a more focused approach could be applied where necessary. As a final deliverable, CampusGuard provided an executive-level scorecard highlighting overall results and interpreted gaps in relevant terms for the university’s executive leadership team.
ITS formed an Executive Steering Committee and assigned a project manager to coordinate activities between the multiple WVU groups participating. The initial goals were to identify findings that could be remediated quickly, as well as to establish a plan for continued operations of a GLBA compliance program. Over the course of a few months, WVU remediated approximately a third of the assessment findings, and another half are in flight. An unanticipated result was establishing better communications between ITS and business offices. “Instead of dictating activities to them, we developed a partnership with Student Financial Services and worked
together to achieve compliance with minimal disruption to business operations,” said Griffith.
The recommended remediation strategies provided by CampusGuard let the Steering Committee make decisions about security-related initiatives to accept, reduce or eliminate risks. They also support longterm strategic risk management activities to ensure the protection of NPI.
Awesome Coincidence: WVU had planned for a federal audit, but it came from an unexpected direction. Soon after the assessment was completed and CampusGuard had delivered its report, the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office announced plans to audit all West Virginia higher education institutions for GLBA compliance. “We had the CampusGuard assessment, and the state accepted it without question as documentation of our progress toward compliance,” CISO Jalso said. “Sometimes an idea just works out perfectly.” WVU was the only state institution to pass the security section of the audit, in part due to the GLBA assessment that CampusGuard had performed.
The goal of this initiative was to provide an assessment that helps ITS understand activities at WVU that come under GLBA and provide direction for identifying, qualifying and mitigating risks in collecting NPI.
“The report and recommendations CampusGuard provided have allowed us to achieve that objective and enabled the university to assure that sensitive student information is protected,” Griffith said.
ITS uses a comprehensive Governance Risk and Compliance system to analyze what is needed to address and prioritize activities and continues to collaborate with CampusGuard to review progress on areas identified for remediation. “By combining CampusGuard’s assessment with our existing compliance tools and initiatives, WVU has reduced the scope, risk and expenses related to GLBA, and we are progressing rapidly to full GLBA compliance while also meeting state requirements,” Jalso added.
For more information, please visit CampusGuard.com or contact us.
“The report and recommendations CampusGuard provided have allowed us to achieve that objective and enabled the university to assure that sensitive student information is protected.”