NCSC issues cyber security alert for academic institutions

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has issued a cyber security alert for academic institutions after a surge in online ransomware attacks against UK schools, colleges and universities.

The cyber security division of GCHQ issued the warning along with a range of new resources and support to help establishments pike in ransomware attacks.

Ransomware attacks - in which cybercriminals lock computers, systems and encrypt data before demanding payment to release them - have had a major impact on infected institutions’ ability to operate effectively and deliver services in recent months.

The NCSC dealt with several ransomware attacks against education establishments in August, which caused varying levels of disruption, depending on the level of security establishments had in place.

Depending on an organisation’s level of resilience, it can take weeks - and in some cases months - for services to return to normal.

The rise in attacks was recorded in August as cyber criminals turned their attention to a sector focused on the return of students, the NCSC stated. Its alert urged institutions to take immediate steps such as ensuring data is backed up, with copies stored offline.

Paul Chichester, director of operations at the NCSC, said: “This criminal targeting of the education sector, particularly at such a challenging time, is utterly reprehensible.

“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.”

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