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Universities hit by ransom attacks as cyber skills demand surges

almost 2 years ago by James Kenealey


Universities and colleges are being told by the UK’s leading cyber security experts that a rising number of cyber attaches could potentially disrupt the start of term.

A spike in ‘ransomware’ attacks has been flagged to the National Cyber Security Centre. Newcastle University and Northumbria have both been targets for these attacks following a selection of colleges in Yorkshire.

Ransomware attacks involve malicious software (‘malware’) locking out users from their systems, which can have a paralysing effect on websites and other online services. These interferences are often accompanied by a ransom note which demands payment for the release of the system and its associated data, along with released access. The attacks often ask for financial payment or access to valuable or potentially sensitive information.

Paul Chichester, the NCSC’s director of operations, said:

"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."

At a time where much of the nation remains working from home and with universities already putting in place measures to begin teaching the first classes of the new academic year remotely, there is a huge strain on network infrastructures – and a lot more avenues through which potential cyber criminals can gain access to confidential systems. Consequently, there has been a surge in demand for security professionals in IT.

Jessica Thompson, Account Manager with The Bridge, said:

“The security market is definitely buoyant compared to other areas of IT, we’re seeing a trend where Cloud Security and Network Security roles are more in demand than risk and governance type roles due to the surge in remote working for organisations.”

Liam Whitehurst, Practice Lead for Information Security at The Bridge, said:

“I certainly agree on the increase in demand for cloud/network security. There is still a fairly large demand for risk/governance skills, and this demand is for candidates with a broader security knowledge across multiple disciplines - namely a combination of cloud security, network/endpoint security and GRC. Universities are a good example of why organisations face new threats since the change in the way people work since COVID-19 with more remote working. Could businesses be next if their cyber defence and cyber teams aren’t in place?”

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