NCSC responds to growth in cyber attacks on education sector

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is a part of GCHQ yesterday published an alert to education establishments warning of an increase in ransomware attacks, and set out steps they can take to keep intruders out of their networks.

The NCSC has dealt with a “significant increase” in the number of attacks since late February, when universities and colleges were preparing to welcome students back to the classroom. The attacks have caused widespread disruption, including the targeting of school financial records.

The NCSC’s advice includes a number of steps which can be taken as part of a ‘defence in depth’ strategy, from installing and enabling antivirus software to having up-to-date and tested offline back-ups.

Paul Chichester“This is a growing threat and we strongly encourage schools, colleges, and universities to act on our guidance and help ensure their students can continue their education uninterrupted,” said Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at the NCSC. “We are committed to ensuring the UK education sector is resilient against cyber threats, and have published practical resources to help establishments improve their cyber security and response to cyber incidents.”

Often the aim of cyber criminals deploying ransomware is to encrypt data that will have the most impact on an organisation’s services. This can affect access to computer networks as well as services including email systems and web sites.

The NCSC previously reported an increase in ransomware attacks on the UK education sector in August and September 2020, and has updated this alert in line with the latest activity.

Alongside the updated alert, network defenders are also urged to read the NCSC’s mitigating malware and ransomware guidance, and to plan and rehearse ransomware scenarios in the event that defences are breached.

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