On September 17, 2020, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center NCSC has issued an alert to the academic sector following an increased number of cyberattacks on schools, colleges, and universities. In fact, UK universities have been suffering from cyberattacks following the rise of online schooling amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A new report by Kaspersky published on September 4, 2020, states that phishing, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, Adware and Malware are among cyberattacks threats associated with online learning.
NCSC provided UK institutions with a set of alerts to keep criminals out of their network following the detection of 17 ransomware attacks in August 2020. These attacks usually target the encryption of an organization’s data by criminals, who demand an exchange of money for its recovery.
The National Cyber Security Center has encouraged UK institutions to ensure that all their data are backed up and copies are stocked offline to prevent data loss in case of any cyberattack. The authority said that it is ready to support institutions as well as offering guidance for them to better understand the cybersecurity sector. “The NCSC recommends that organizations implement a ‘defense in depth’ strategy to defend against malware and ransomware attacks”. Moreover, they added, “Your organization should also have an incident response plan, which includes a scenario for a ransomware attack”.
Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at the NCSC, said, “While these have been isolated incidents, I would strongly urge all academic institutions to take heed of our alert and put in place the steps we suggest, to help ensure young people are able to return to education undisrupted”. Moreover, he added, “We are absolutely committed to ensuring UK academia is as safe as possible from cyber threats, and will not hesitate to act when that threat evolves.”
On September 4, 2020, The DoppelPaymer ransomware gang breached Newcastle University systems and stole backup files, states IT Governance. The BBC also reported that Northumbria University suffered from “operational disruptions across networks and IT system on September 1, 2020.
David Corke, Director of Education and skills policy at the Association of Colleges, said “As the last six months have shown us, it has never been more important for colleges to have the right digital infrastructure in order to be able to protect their systems and keep learning happening, whatever the circumstance”, according to The York Press.