School IT Blog

Ransomware cyber-attacks are growing in schools

Mon 28 June, 2021

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As scammers get smarter, schools need to be on the lookout for ransomware cyber-attacks. Recently 2 schools in Kent were shut down after data breaches.

But what is a ransomware cyber-attack?

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your systems or the data held on them. Typically, the data is encrypted, but it may also be deleted or stolen, or the computer itself may be made inaccessible. The criminal may then request a ransom to get this information back or just delete it all together.

This is a particular concern to schools as the data they hold is often highly sensitive and a data breach could have significant consequences for their students and the school as a whole.

Below is a segment taken from a BBC article, just to show the effect it can have on a school and its community. This attack was in the last 2 weeks before this was written and will continue to happen regularly unless schools get appropriate protection.

The impact of a cyberattack on Kent schools

Two schools have closed after hackers broke into their servers, stole data and encrypted pupil information.

Officials at the Skinners' Kent Academy and Skinners' Kent Primary School said they "cannot be sure" exactly what information hackers have access to. But they urged parents at the Tunbridge Wells schools to contact their banks to let them know that personal details could have been taken.

Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre are investigating.

The police and the trust's own data protection company are also carrying out inquires after the attack, which began last Wednesday. Skinners Kent Academy Trust said on its website that the hackers told them what information they have access to.

It said they did not "appear" to have access to the School Information Management System, which is where personal records for pupils, students and staff are held. "However, they have encrypted this data so that we no longer have access to it," the trust added.

As staff no longer hold vital information on the pupils - including emergency contact details - the decision was taken to close the schools on Monday. The trust is now in the process of collecting all this data from parents again, before it can reopen.

The schools must also have their computers reconfigured so staff can access the resources required to teach. The schools set up remote learning on Tuesday. The statement on the trust's website advised parents: "It would be very wise to let your bank know that your bank details may have been taken."

A trust spokeswoman described the hackers as "sophisticated". She added: "The trust is working incredibly hard to ensure that our students and pupils are back in our schools. as soon as it is possible to do so."

Taken from a BBC Article – click here for the full article

What can you do to protect your school?

The article just shows the dramatic effect that this kind of attack can have on any school. Here at Soft Egg, our main aim is to keep schools safe from these attacks with ultra-safe networking systems. As we specialise in education technology and school IT systems, we have the wealth of knowledge to keep your school safe from these kinds of attacks.

Our main strategies to prevent these attacks include using the most up to date software including filtering for every device, per-pupil filtering, Filtering for pupils at home, Reporting attempts of any kind of cyber-attacks, and Firewalls. We also provide safeguarding training for school staff so that they can learn how to reduce the chance of an attack, and how to spot an attack if it does occur. Bespoke and fixed packages are available for whatever your schools want, and need!

One of our best services to help prevent a ransomware attack is our secure cloud backup for your school. But why might you need that you may ask?

Secure cloud backup means that if a ransomware attack was to occur then you can have secure backups of all of the data within the school system so no information will be lost if an attack occurs. This is ideal for protecting your FMS, servers, pupils and staff; data, files and folders. Our school cloud backup solution is fully secure, encrypted and hosted in the UK. Our SIMS and FMS backup solution is the only Capita approved system.

A lot of schools are still using tape backup which really is not up to standard, it is outdated, unreliable and work-intensive. Overly cheap cloud solutions are available on the market, but they are often unsafe, unsecured and not based within the UK. Encrypted Cloud backup solutions now form the gold standard for protecting sensitive data. So, if you aren’t already using Encrypted Cloud backup your school really needs to upgrade up to secure cloud backup.

For more information get in touch with us here at Soft Egg, we can offer a full IT system audit to help understand where your school system might require upgrading.

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