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InfoSec / Cyber

Cartoon of a criminal dressed in black with black hat, cyber criminal in orange on their chest, climbing out of a computer carrying a yellow computer folder on their shoulder

The Crime in a Cyber Attack and a Data Breach

As a data protection officer we are seeing a rise in the number of cyber attacks on organisations.  We often find that the fact an actual crime has been committed is sometimes overlooked in the panic and need to recover data and get operations back up and running.  According to the National Crime Agency (NCA) cyber crime continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, businesses and private individuals.  Cyber crime costs the UK billions of pounds, causes untold damage and threatens national security.

The most common cyber threats include:

  • Hacking - including of social media and email passwords
  • Phishing - bogus emails asking for security information and personal details
  • Malicious software – including ransomware through which criminals hijack files and hold them to ransom
  • Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks against websites – often accompanied by extortion

Most cyber attacks could be prevented by taking these basic security steps: 

  • Choose strong passwords and don’t reuse them for multiple logins
  • Install security software such as anti-virus and two-factor authentication. This kind of software is often available for free.
  • Keep all security software and operating systems updated (this can be set to update automatically)

Resource: National Crime Agency

The South-East Cyber Crime Unit gives the following about Data Breach Advice and What to Do.  They advise that in a breach it may be tempting to search for and download a copy of the data from the Data Breach yourself for reassurance.  They strongly recommend against doing this.  Aside from ending up in possession of stolen data belonging to others, there are sometimes fake copies of such data circulating on the internet and dark web, containing malicious files (e.g. viruses) that can cause additional damage to your computer / network, online accounts and personal data.

Cyber crimes and data breaches can come from both external and internal sources and may result in financial loss.  Reporting the crime, particularly a cyber crime, can help the cyber crime unit identify/track down criminals - you may be a very small, but crucial part of the puzzle!  Don't forget that you may need to preserve evidence, so speak to Action Fraud first.

Only 15% of cyber crimes are reported!

What to do in the event of a Cyber Attack 

Tell someone!  Report to IT. Report to SLT.

Unplug the computer from the internet by removing the ethernet cable or turning the Wi-Fi off. Isolate the infected device and pass to IT 

If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we would recommend reporting this to:
Action Fraud: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ as well as your data protection officer so they can advise about the data loss or your local police and ask for the cyber crime team or phone 101 and ask for the cyber crime team.

Most cyber crimes like these will also need to be reported to the ICO by your data protection officer. Our customers should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

These incidents should also be reported to the DfE sector cyber team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Academy trusts have to report these attacks to ESFA.

Where the incident causes long term school closure, the closure of more than 1 school or serious financial damage, you should also inform the National Cyber Security Centre.

Always ensure there are backups you can restore from.  Preserving evidence is as important as recovering from the crime.

Forward suspicious emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).

Little Guide to ACTION FRAUD