Skip to main content

News | Business | UK Cybersecurity: Cyber threat to disrupt start of university term

 Sean Coughlan 


Top of face with a pair of glasses Image copyright Getty Images

Universities and colleges are being warned by the UK's cyber-security agency that rising numbers of cyber-attacks are threatening to disrupt the start of term.

The National Cyber Security Centre has issued an alert after a recent spike in attacks on educational institutions.

These have been "ransomware" incidents which block access to computer systems.

Paul Chichester, the NCSC's director of operations, says such attacks are "reprehensible".

The return to school, college and university, already facing problems with Covid-19, now faces an increased risk from cyber-attacks, which the security agency says could "de-rail their preparations for the new term".

'Devastating'

The cyber-security body, part of the GCHQ intelligence agency, says such attacks can have a "devastating impact" and take weeks or months to put right.

Newcastle University and Northumbria have both been targeted by cyber-attacks this month, and a group of further education colleges in Yorkshire and a higher education college in Lancashire faced attacks last month.

The warning from the NCSC follows a spate of ransomware attacks against academic institutions - in which malicious software or "malware" is used to lock out users from their own computer systems, paralysing online services, websites and phone networks.

The security agency says this is often followed by a ransom note demanding payment for the recovery of this frozen or stolen data - sometimes with the added threat of publicly releasing sensitive information.

Universities have frequently been targets of cyber-attacks - with up to a thousand attacks per year in the UK.

Attacks can be attempts to obtain valuable research information that is commercially and politically sensitive. Universities also hold much personal data about students, staff and, in some cases, former students who might have made donations.

Earlier this summer more than 20 universities and charities in the UK, US and Canada were caught up in a ransomware cyber-attack involving a cloud computing supplier, Blackbaud.

The warning from the NCSC highlights the vulnerability of online systems for remote working, as increased numbers of staff are working from home.

"Phishing" attacks, where people are tricked into clicking on a malicious link such as in an email, also remains a common pathway for such ransomware attempts, says the advice.

'Criminal targeting'

Mr Chichester of the NCSC says: "The criminal targeting of the education sector, particularly at such a challenging time, is utterly reprehensible."

"I would strongly urge all academic institutions to take heed of our alert."

The intervention was backed by Jisc, the body which provides internet services for UK universities and research centres.

Steve Kennett of Jisc says that after the wave of cyber-attacks on the "education and research community", institutions need to take action to reduce their risks.

Universities UK says data security has had to become a priority for higher education - and that "protections are in place to manage threats as much as possible".

The universities body also says it is working with the NCSC to produce "robust guidance on cyber-security" which will be released later this academic year.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: How the shutdown could make it harder for the government to retain cybersecurity talent

By Joseph Marks 13-17 minutes THE KEY President Trump delivers an address about border security amid a partial government shutdown on Jan. 8. (Carolyn Kaster/AP) The partial government shutdown that's now in its 18th day is putting key cyber policy priorities on hold and leaving vital operations to a bare bones staff. But the far greater long-term danger may be the blow to government cyber defenders' morale, former officials warn. With the prospect of better pay and greater job security in the private sector, more government cyber operators are likely to decamp to industry, those former officials tell me, and the smartest cybersecurity graduates will look to industry rather than government to hone their skills. That’s especially dangerous, they say, considering the government’s struggle to recruit and retain skilled workers amid a nationwide shortage of cybersecurity talent. About 20 percent of staffers are furloughed at the De

Democrats call for investigation into Trump’s iPhone use after a report that China is listening:Analysis | The Daily 202 I The Washington Post.

washingtonpost.com By James Hohmann _________________________________________________________________________________ President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping visit the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last November. (Andrew Harnik/AP) With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve THE BIG IDEA: If Democrats win the House in two weeks, it’s a safe bet that one of the oversight hearings they schedule for early next year would focus on President Trump’s use of unsecured cellphones. The matter would not likely be pursued with anywhere near the gusto that congressional Republicans investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Leaders of the minority party have higher priorities . But Democratic lawmakers made clear Thursday morning that they will not ignore a New York Times report that Trump has refused to stop using iPhones in the White House, despite repeated warnings from U.S. intelligence offici

RTTNews: Morning Market Briefing.-Weekly Jobless Claims Edge Down To 444,000. May 13th 2010

Morning Market Briefing Thu May 13 09:01 2010   Commentary May 13, 2010 Stocks Poised For Lackluster Open Amid Mixed Market Sentiment - U.S. Commentary Stocks are on pace for a mixed start to Thursday's session, as a mostly upbeat jobs report continued to relieve the markets while some consternation regarding the European debt crisis remained on traders' minds. The major index futures are little changed, with the Dow futures down by 4 points. Full Article Economic News May 13, 2010 Weekly Jobless Claims Edge Down To 444,000 First-time claims for unemployment benefits showed another modest decrease in the week ended May 8th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday, although the number of claims exceeded estimates due to an upward revision to the previous week's data. Full Article May 13, 2010 Malaysia's Decade High Growth Triggers Policy Tightening Malaysia's economy grew at the fastest pace in a decade in