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Rise in Cyber Attacks on the UK Education Sector

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Cyber Security

Rise in Cyber Attacks on the UK Education Sector

UK Schools, colleges and universities are being subjected to an increasing number of ransomware attacks. The initial increase was during August/September 2020 and again in February 2021, now in May/June 2021, a further increase in ransomware against the UK education sector is being investigated by the National Cyber Security Centre.

It is important that all organisations, including the education sector, understand the damaging consequences of a ransomware attack in terms of data loss and access to critical services.

What is a ransomware attack?

Once you are infected with ransomware your systems and data become encrypted, deleted or stolen, preventing you from accessing them. Typically, a ransom note will be sent to you following the attack, demanding payment in return for the recovery of your systems and data.

The ransom note will usually be sent via an anonymous email address and payment in the form of crypto currency will be requested.

What are the impacts of ransomware?

As a result of a ransomware attack, the victim will usually suffer downtime and will need a substantial amount of recovery time. Much like most cyber crimes, ransomware attacks are often very targeted, and sometimes high profile victims are pursued due to the public and media interest.

Downtime often leads to a reduction of sales, damage to brand, a decrease in profit and large GDPR fines.

According to the National Cyber Security Center, “In recent incidents affecting the education sector, ransomware has led to the loss of student coursework, school financial records, as well as data relating to COVID-19 testing.”

Attacks can happen to organisations of all sizes, big or small and are not confined to just one industry.

Common methods of attack

A cyber criminals attack strategy will depend on the vulnerabilities they uncover. Some of the most common trends are as follows:


Remote access

Targeting victims through weak passwords, lack of two/ multi-factor authentication and unpatched vulnerabilities in software.

Phishing attacks

Emails infected with ransomware are frequently used to lure unsuspecting victims to click or open files that hosts the malware.

Unsecure devices

Devices which are unpatched or unsecure are a common route into victims networks.

Mitigating the effects of a ransomware attack

It’s important that your organisation has robust cyber security solutions and support in place as well as a business recovery plan so that in the event of an attack, you have procedures and strategies in place.

If your organisation needs some advice or support to help protect against ransomware attacks, please get in touch today.