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Case Study: The Cybersecurity Strategy Buena Vista University Used to Secure 29+ Departments

  |  Dashlane
Buena Vista Case Study

The company

Buena Vista University
Buena Vista University is a private university with a total enrollment of 1,959 students. The university serves students online and on campus in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Higher Education

Company size
300 employees

The challenge:  Getting 2,259 people engaged in their own cybersecurity

Cybersecurity and cyber risk management are always important topics, but they're vital in higher education. With students starting and graduating, and adjunct professors coming and going, higher education facilities have naturally high turnover. It's no exception at Buena Vista University (BVU) where the IT team anticipates demanding succession planning and goes the extra mile to protect students, staff, and faculty from cyber threats.

"There's a lot of turnover, which means significant onboarding and off-boarding." Joe McLain, CIO at Buena Vista University, explains. "We also need to be prepared for short-term changes, including maternity leave and vacation." 

BVU had a wide range of cybersecurity awareness, so Joe McLain felt that part of his job as CIO was helping colleagues and students understand cybersecurity rather than just enforcing it. He commonly spreads awareness by sharing tips such as “never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to have posted online.”

A handful of BVU staff had used a password management solution before, but Joe didn't want a commonplace solution that would feel like Big Brother surveillance. He wanted to empower everyone to take control of their own security, both in their personal and professional lives.

"We want to bring awareness, but we don't want to hassle people," Joe explains. "Instead, we talk to people about how they can better protect themselves or their families, which gets them interested in cybersecurity."

Still, Joe felt there was a cybersecurity awareness gap and needed help demonstrating the importance of personal digital accountability. The goal, beyond helping people understand how critical cybersecurity is, was to get them engaged in improving it. 

Joe created a two-part cybersecurity strategy. First, he wanted to get people interested.

“The first step to making any cybersecurity initiative successful is getting people to care about it and participate in it. Cybersecurity takes a community.”

Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

According to Joe, when a topic is personal and relevant, people will care about it, which is why he started introducing people to the concept of digital hygiene.

"Our goal is to enable people to have a more secure digital footprint because that improves their security posture as individuals and benefits BVU, too," Joe reasons. 

The second step in Joe's cybersecurity strategy was to support students, staff, and faculty with an easy-to-use password management tool. Joe believes that it’s only reasonable to ask people to use independent, unique passwords everywhere when they have the support of a robust security solution.

"We want to help our employees and students understand which technologies they can trust and why," Joe explains. "It's hard to change people's habits, but if we show them why it's important, make it easy, and help them change, we can successfully create a more secure environment."

The solution: 500 passwords, A+ password health, and a zero-knowledge solution

Joe knew which solution he wanted to introduce. "I've used Dashlane since 2017. I've introduced it to my family and at three different universities. I absolutely love it."

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Since Joe began using Dashlane, his personal use of the solution has only grown. "I have over 500 passwords in Dashlane and a 100/100 Password Health score."

The Dashlane features that continue to stand out and provide benefits for Joe include:

  • Password vault protects passwords and securely shares encrypted passwords 
  • Admin Console offers one centralized password management system, offering simple employee management and auditing when required
  • Secure sharing lets staff securely share encrypted passwords with individuals or groups 
  • Dark Web Monitoring notifies users when their old and reused passwords have been compromised and helps generate new, unique, and secure passwords
  • Access to five free family password manager accounts helps ensure the passwords of families of BVU employees are protected, creating greater security for their employees
  • Digital wallet securely stores payment types and provides fast and safe checkout on any website, from anywhere
  • Dashlane Support provides an onboarding specialist to help maximize benefits

Joe also likes that Dashlane never stores Master Passwords on any servers or transmits them in any form, which means that the organization doesn’t have access to anyone’s passwords. This gives Joe peace of mind. "I like that Dashlane supports a zero-knowledge concept to secure our digital existence."

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The result: Adoption across 29+ departments is only the beginning

When Joe started introducing Dashlane at BVU, he began with a small group of people who wanted to improve their cybersecurity. "I always start with a pilot program to show a handful of people how easy it is and how it provides greater security," Joe explains.

The initial group of 20 people included students and faculty and staff members. They immediately discovered that some students' passwords had been compromised.

Joe reported his findings to leadership and highlighted the opportunity to heighten BVU's cybersecurity. The university president read the report, learned about Dashlane, and requested to be part of the pilot. 

"The university president loves Dashlane and frequently promotes it in executive meetings—that led to our marketing and communication director asking for an account, too." Joe says.

Now, Joe has rolled Dashlane out across 29+ BVU departments, but his work isn't done because interest in the solution is growing.

“Departments keep contacting me, asking me to introduce Dashlane to their employees.”

Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

Whether Joe is introducing new hires to Dashlane or engaging with a new department, he automatically helps people set up an account and get started. "When people first log in and learn their passwords have been impacted, they realize that breaches can happen to anyone and become interested in how Dashlane can help them." 

As a result, BVU has a 100% Dashlane adoption rate for every person introduced to the solution. Joe's strategy to make it personal is working, and it's making cybersecurity about much more than passwords.

"When I talk about using Dashlane, I share how I use it in my life, and how it can help other people. When it's just a person trying to help another person, it opens up a lot of conversations, which is important because it's not always passwords that are the problem. Sometimes there are additional cybersecurity best practices that we need to talk about."

Those conversations help both Joe and the people he's coaching understand the full range of benefits that Dashlane offers, which extend beyond securing passwords to improving productivity and securing payment information.

“Dashlane does more than manage passwords; it makes your life easier, and I want it to be everyone's go-to for cybersecurity."

Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

The truth is, Joe wouldn't recommend Dashlane unless it met his top two requirements: trustworthiness and ease of use. 

In fact, Joe trusts Dashlane so much that he's even willing to lift the password expiration policy when people use the solution.

“We're incentivizing people by offering to waive 30/60/90 password change mandates if they utilize Dashlane." Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

Trust is a massive deal to Joe. "People have a false sense of security; they think it's safe if they have their password written down. Or that it's safe if they don't use any password management technology. But that's not the world we live in today. To be truly safe, you need to understand which technologies you can trust," Joe shares. "I show people zero-knowledge encryption with Dashlane. I show them my digital wallet and don’t worry about it because I know Dashlane keeps my information safe.

At BVU, Dashlane's ease of use speaks for itself. From students to professors, ad hoc staff to executive chairs, there are various people and departments using Dashlane, and the feedback is resoundingly positive.

This broad range of people relying on Dashlane helps highlight the university’s use cases and ensures that everyone is getting the maximum value from the solution. Joe never gets tired of hearing about the new ways people use Dashlane, and he's heard them all. Student workers use Dashlane to share access to social media accounts and departments use it for securely storing information and to help with succession planning.

“Whether someone's leaving the organization or going on vacation and needs to share passwords, Dashlane helps us initiate important conversations on business continuity."

Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

Now, BVU can plan proactively because Dashlane helps start onboarding and offboarding discussions ahead of time.

"I always highlight the numerous great Dashlane use cases in onboarding because it helps get people thinking about how they can use the solution and gets them excited about adopting it," Joe explains. 

Joe doesn't just want the people at BVU to be using Dashlane; he wants to share the solution with everyone. 

"I love that we can share Dashlane with friends and family; that's awesome. I care about the security of everyone’s digital footprint. Give it to your significant other, your kids, your parents, become cybersecurity champions for your families," Joe says. "Then you'll become more aware of your footprint at work."

Joe is continually monitoring the university's overall Password Health score, which is steadily increasing, but he’s just getting started. He plans to continue helping people understand the importance of cybersecurity and will be following up with people about how actively they use Dashlane. 

"We can see people's engagement and reach out to them to help them increase it," Joe shares. "As people use Dashlane more, they get increasingly comfortable with it, and the benefits just multiply."

While cybersecurity is a serious topic, Joe likes to find ways to make it fun. He’s currently exploring the idea of starting a challenge to see who at BVU can increase their Password Health score the most for a prize.

When it comes down to it, there’s no other password management solution for Joe.

“Dashlane is the most empowering, non-invasive, and human-centric solution available."

Joe McLain,
CIO, Buena Vista University

And, if he had it his way, it would be the password management solution you'd pick too, saying, "Use Dashlane. Your cyber experience and the security of your digital footprint will benefit tremendously."

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