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Cybercriminals actively targeting schools with malware threats

Posted by Geraldine Hunt on Tue, Aug 30th, 2016

Universities and other higher education establishments are at risk from data breaches and malware threats, just like any large organisation.  From a cybercriminal's perspective schools and universities represent a very attractive target.  The personal and financial data stored on university data systems are valuable to cybercriminals.

Implications of any data theft for schools are huge

The implications of any data theft are huge: reputational, legal, economic and operational. Future funding may be affected, as well as possible loss of future student fees and associated income. Prosecution and other penalties could also arise, or the loss of sensitive data. There may even be damage to infrastructure that cripples the activities of the institution.

Malware and ransomware attacks on schools are not rare

The malware attack was so severe a  Minnesota school  they had to close down for 1 day. Full repairs will take weeks. This could have been avoided. 

A Crypto-ransomware attack encrypted theentire New Jersey school district network  recently. The source of the infection is unclear, it may  have been that someone opened a malicious email attachment or a malicious app, or even did nothing other than visit a website that had malicious advertisements.

The nature of the University campus and network is the real difference between higher-education establishments and the corporate network. Made up of many dispersed networks the university network infrastructure is often complex.  These are environments where the concept of tight data security has traditionally been unhelpful or even unwanted. When an institution thrives on the free exchange of data and ideas, it cannot easily apply the same security measures as larger businesses do.

For Cybercriminals Timing is Everything

For the cybercriminals targeting an educational organisation, timing is everything. A new school year means scammers are segmenting their email databases to launch targeted attacks welcoming student and school employees back online. Every year scammers launch new spam and phishing campaigns when students are returning to the classroom. Fake welcome emails, password reset emails and banking notifications  are just some of the topics spammer use at this time of year.

Balancing IT and Educator Needs

The Internet has presented the education sector with some great opportunities and some major headaches. Educators continue to grapple with the best way to help kids use the Internet in school while protecting them from online dangers.

Blocking inappropriate content doesn’t have to block learning. As students spend more and more time connected to the web, ensure this  time is spent safely and with content-aware web filtering. By  scanning page content,  WebTitan’s content  engine can keep up with a constantly changing web.

Why Educational Institutions need to Filter?

  • Student safety  - protection from dangerous, inappropriate or illegal sites
  • Network security
  • Identify  cyberbullying
  • CIPA compliance
  • Application of  Acceptable internet Usage Policies
  • Control bandwidth 
  • Ability to monitor

It is your duty as an education establishment to provide a safe learning environment. Schools are legally obliged to demonstrate reasonable and effective measures to control access to the Internet. There is a fine-balance on what has to be allowed and what security measures can be put in place. Security in all organisations, commercial or academic, is a trade-off between the likelihood and potential impact of an attack and the financial cost or loss of utility that are incurred in defence.

Why not take a look at how the TitanHQ suite of granular network security solutions meet the flexible requirements of the education sector - How we help Education.

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