Education is not up to par when it comes to ransomware protection

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Major ransomware attacks are frequently in the news and, with groups behind the US fuel pipeline attack reporting to have earnt $90m in the last nine months, it is easy to understand why these attacks keep growing.

You would think that wealthy financial services companies are a prime target. However, the education sector has come under fire with countless high-profile ransomware attacks in the last six months alone. And to add even more anxiety, educational institutions are now being threatened with the theft of students’ and parents’ personal data which will only be released if ransoms are paid.

This trend is supported by incident statistics, collected by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) – the UK’s data protection regulator, listing education as the sector with the third highest number of ransomware incidents, falling just behind manufacturing and financial services.

The volume of attacks has reached such an extent that the UK government’s cybersecurity organisation, the NCSC, and the Department for Education (DfE) have issued official warnings that the education sector is being targeted and it needs to increase its level of protection.

The general opinion within the cybersecurity industry is that most successful attacks are opportunistic, casting their net wide enough to see what damage they can wreak. So, if the statistics from the ICO show this trend points towards the education sector, why is it considered such a big target?

Cybercriminals are most likely to target organisations based on how big an impact ransomware will cause, how likely an organisation is to pay up and how easy it will be to break in. I’m confident cybercriminals don’t believe schools, multi-academy trusts or universities have deep pockets, so the only conclusion must be that they think education is an easy target that will still cause a large impact.

I’m confident cybercriminals don’t believe schools, multi-academy trusts or universities have deep pockets, so the only conclusion must be that they think education is an easy target that will still cause a large impact

If a small organisation is shut down because of ransomware, it’s unlikely to make headline news. However,…

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