We like to think that our government-owned services are well protected, but with the rise in technology and how advanced its becoming, threats of ransomware attacks are more likely than ever. We’ve teamed up with KBR, school WiFi specialists, to find out how we can prevent ransomware attacks within the education sector.

Are universities impacted by ransomware attacks?

From extensive research carried out by SentinelOne, 63% of British universities suffered from a ransomware attack. 56% of these had suffered from an attack in the past year. Bournemouth University suffered from 21 ransomware attacks in the same year showing that ransomware attacks are common in education institutions.

Preferring to handle the ransomware attack internally, the majority of universities that were impacted did not go to the authorities to report the attack. Brunel University in London was the only university to make a formal report.

Educating your own audience

Educating technology users on ransomware as a general topic is vital — people need to have a clear understanding of its power and this will lead to education centres being able to defend themselves. Speaking generally, ransomware attacks can break a business, and this is something that all business owners want to avoid if they wish to remain successful. However, this can cause a great deal of damage for those operating in the education sector. After acknowledging the problem, it all comes down to user education — knowledge is key and the correct tools should be provided to make people aware of potential risks.

1.Amending policies to highlight procedures

Although most universities around the country have their own security policies in place, they must highlight the steps that need to be taken for each system if an attack was to occur. When this is issued to individuals, whether this is staff within an education institute or students, they should be able to have a clear understanding of what it means. To achieve this, it is worth producing specific security policies for different departments so it relates to their role. Usually a policy that is created for everyone leads to misunderstanding and a higher risk of security problems.

2.Inductions for employees, students, and third-party users

Making people who are new to an organisation aware of the policies that you have in place is a must to ensure the safety of your overall operation. You should outline their personal responsibility in their contracts to show that when they sign the contract, they are aware of potential consequences they might face for any misconduct when it comes to security. This should be included in the induction stage of their contract or initiation.

3.Training individuals within the organisation

For those working with technology within a university, appropriate training should be given to ensure that the correct measures are carried out. Security advice can always change, so making training a more regular occurrence in the business can be beneficial and open room for discussion and constant learning opportunities that will transfer to their role.

4.Highlighting arising issues

Management should be approachable, allowing anyone within the organisation to report issues that could potentially cause a greater harm. This should be embedded into universities’ culture and make those working with the system aware that they must report any incidents.

5.Consequences

After policies have been made, it is important to present potential consequences to those who are non-compliant. This will lead to a more knowledgeable workforce that will put the best interests of your company’s security at the top of their priorities.

Industries that commonly experience ransomware attacks

According to research carried out, the education sector receives the most ransomware attacks with 23%. IT/telecommunications come in second place with 22%. The entertainment and financial services join in third place with 21%. The construction industry is in fourth place with 19%. The government and the manufacturing industries suffer from 18% of ransomware attacks. The transport sector is privy to 17% of attacks, while the healthcare sector and retail/wholesale/leisure come in at 16%.