Schools in the UK have been advised to take appropriate steps to protect student data from the growing threat posed by malicious hackers.
Our research has shown there are more than 2100 enquiries relating to ‘how to hack the school computer’ entered into Google’s UK search engine every month. And while in the past these enquiries may have been dismissed as ‘Ferris Bueller-style’ teenage mischievousness, schools should be aware that a real threat exists from criminals and those with malicious intent.
As educational institutions continue to adopt tools to monitor the behaviour and performance of students, the data held by schools is also becoming increasingly detailed and, therefore, attractive to unscrupulous hackers. Claim a free* Cyber Security Assessment for your organisation to help reveal any security vulnerabilities and be given free guidance on improvements.
“There is a clear incentive for hackers, who know that the mere threat of exposing data can be enough to leverage a ransom out of an organisation,” said Mark Lomas, IT consultant at Icomm Technologies. “Schools in particular hold a very high level of personal data, which makes them a prime target.”
Marks warns: “An open search on the internet will pull up a lot of information on how to hack a school computer but these are just the enquiries we know about. Schools need to be more concerned about hidden conversations on the dark web, where criminals can also acquire the tools required to carry out a sophisticated attack on a school network.”
A report by Schools Week has revealed that 66 data breach cases involving schools were investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last year – in one incident the names of seven pupils believed to be at risk of radicalisation were revealed.
Schools should be aware that the ICO has repeatedly demonstrated that it is prepared to fine public sector institutions and private organisations that have failed to take adequate steps to protect personal data from cyber threats. These penalties can be as much as £500,000 per incident.
Mark said: “We know from working with schools on a regular basis that there is a general awareness of cybercrime. But there isn’t always an appreciation that their own school could be the one targeted. This attitude needs to change quickly as the cyber threats are becoming more frequent as the hackers continue to enjoy wide success.”
Icomm advises schools to take the necessary steps to protect their networks and data by investing in a next generation firewall, anti-virus, spam filtering, as well as malware and spyware detection programs. It’s also critical that schools ensure that their security defences and software patches are kept up to date as criminal cyber threats continue to evolve.
Do you know how secure your information is?
Take our free* Cyber Security Assessment with a qualified ACE practitioner, who will work with you to identify and analyse security issues, and give you guidance on any improvements that are needed to make your network more secure. Register here or call 0121 248 7931.
This assessment also forms part of the Government Cyber Essentials Scheme, a government-backed, industry supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber threats.
*Terms and conditions apply. Qualification phone call required. You will receive a maximum of 4 hours’ consultancy from a qualified ACE practitioner.
Read Time for schools to get smarter when tackling cyber attacks here