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InfoSec / Cyber

Cyber attack in blue, harry the hacker looking at computer screens and phishing (fishing) a laptop. data protection education logo

The Education sector now at highest risk of cyber attacks

A recent study conducted by Check Point Research which can be found at the bottom of this article has found that there has been a 29% increase in cyberattacks on organisations in the education sector since 2020, the highest increase of any sector. 

With such a worrying statistic, we thought it was worth highlighting the study’s findings to illustrate how cyberattacks are becoming an increasingly dangerous threat to schools and the personal data they are responsible for, and what can be done to best protect against these threats. Due to the pandemic, organisations particularly in the education sector were forced to change to a mostly remote workforce. Schools worldwide were then needed to adapt their infrastructure so that employees could work from home effectively. 

Unfortunately, this means that educational providers such as Universities and Schools are at the highest risk they’ve ever been of cyber attacks in 2021, and explains why the education sector is seeing the highest increase in weekly cyber attacks worldwide, over and above any other sector’s increase. A frightening case study that is noted in the article is that the Department for Education in Australia’s New South Wales have recently experienced a cyber attack which resulted in their entire online platforms being shut down just days before remote learning was due to start at the beginning of their new school term.

The Check Point points out some other worrying statistics that their study has found regarding the risk cyber attacks pose to the education sector in particular. As of July 2021, the education sector has not only experienced the highest percentage increase of attacks in the last year, but also now has the highest volume of weekly attacks, with an average weekly number totalling 1,739. Whilst the study shows that the most target countries are India, Italy and Israel, it’s worth noting that the UK has seen a 93% increase in weekly attacks in July 2021 compared to the first half of 2021, with the education sector in particular in the UK seeing a 142% increase in that same time.

The study conducted by Check Points highlights the increasing threat posed by cyberattacks and the risk it poses to personal data. With the education sector in particular being targeted at such a high rate, we all must take the necessary steps to mitigate that risk as much as we can. 

Data Protection Education provides various tools to help manage your risk from cyber attacks, that can be used as part of your mitigation strategy. These focuson the management and human elements and should be I place alongside the recommended resilience and security from your IT provider. These include our phishing simulation tool, information security policies, business continuity plans, off-the-shelf risk assessment, software/systems ad supplier due diligence and of course, our info-sec e-learning. 

The full article along with some graphs that can help visualise just how much the cyber attack threat has increased in the education sector, and in the UK in particular can be found here.