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Cybersecurity alert issued following rising attacks on UK academia

Cybersecurity alert issued following rising attacks on UK academia

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Cybersecurity alert issued following rising attacks on UK academia

Cybersecurity experts have stepped up support for UK schools, colleges and universities following a spate of online attacks with the potential to de-rail their preparations for the new term.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued an alert to the sector containing a number of steps they can take to keep cybercriminals out of their networks, following a recent spike in ransomware attacks.

The NCSC dealt with several ransomware attacks against education establishments in August, which caused varying levels of disruption, depending on the level of security establishments had in place.

Ransomware attacks typically involve the encryption of an organisation’s data by cyber criminals, who then demand money in exchange for its recovery.

Adenike Cosgrove, Cybersecurity Strategy, International at Proofpoint, said: “In recent years, the frequency, sophistication level and cost of cyberattacks against universities has increased. The education sector saw the largest year-on-year increase of email fraud attacks of any industry in 2019, with 192% growth, averaging 40 attacks per institution.

“The Coronavirus pandemic may have upped the ante with the security challenges posed by a rapid move to remote learning, but the education sector has been something of a powder keg for a very long time. Education institutions hold masses of highly sensitive data on individuals, perhaps more so than any industry outside healthcare. Along with personal information such as name, address, DOB, there’s also the potential to hold payment details, ID, health records and much more.  This trove of information puts a target on the back of every good-sized school, college or university. Also, like medical institutions, education centres must maintain short- and long-term continuity. Cancelling exams, writing off grades and cutting off services is not an option and cybercriminals know this, which also makes the sector one of the most targeted by ransomware attacks. Recent incidents such as those at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities are just the latest of many in a sector increasingly under attack. And the only defence is one that places the very people under attack at its heart.”

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