Cyber-attacks on schools and universities

Many wonders why cyber attacks on educational institutions have become numerous lately, but the actual questions we should be asking ourselves is why the education sector is always targeted by these cybercriminals.

It is obvious why cyber attacks on financial institutions are frequent; There are many funds to be marauded.

The cyber attacks on healthcare organizations are also ubiquitous because these organizations hold a large quantity of data: data that can be sold for the bulk amount of money on the black market and utilized for different types of fraud: insurance fraud, identity theft, tax fraud, and medical fraud amid others.

There are many reasons why cybercriminals have been attacking educational institutions recently. However, the primary determinant is that schools have a very vast amount of valuable data, they have numerous computer resources that can be utilized by these cybercriminals, and because educational institutions are not heavily secured when it comes to cybersecurity protections.

Their defenses are usually poor and educational organizations tend to have a few IT staff, compared to the corporate sector. In other words, the profits from cyber attacks on educational institutions are high and the attacks are always easy to carry out. To cyber criminals, that is a perfect combination.

TYPES OF CYBERATTACKS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Knowing the types of attack vectors that cybercriminals use offers sagacity on how educational institutions can hide and secure their networks alongside prioritizing their data security.

Below are some cyber attack strategies used against educational institutions.

 

  • RANSOMWARE

This is the type of malware attacks in universities and schools that happens often. Once it enters a device, it encrypts the owner’s file and demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.

This attack results to downtime and unexpected costs which schools cannot provide because the ransomware remediation price, most times, surpasses $5 billion. The Administration of these educational grounds become compelled to find a medium to offset the sudden debt to avoid explaining why there is a delay in the education of hundreds or even thousands of students.

 

  • PHISHING SCAMS

The phishing scam is one of the most popular attacks in existence and schools are not left out of its dread. It is usually carried out over email, but they sometimes come from SMS or social media.

The attackers will send an email that will look like as if it is from someone the user knows personally or an authoritative source. It will request that the user sends sensitive information or input their login credentials on a site that is fake. 30 percent of these messages get opened by their targets and 12 percent of those users click on the malicious attachment.

The moment these cybercriminals get the information they requested for, they can utilize it for credential stuffing on other websites, fraudulent purposes, selling it on the dark web, and more.

 

  • DDoS (DISTRIBUTED DENIAL OF SERVICE)

This attack is also frequent on various stages of the educational field. It overwhelms the network servers of the institute by filling them with requests from many machines, sometimes through a botnet. It increases the traffic which knocks the institution offline.

Though DDoS attacks can be monetized, they are sometimes more of a hacktivist nature (a lesson or hacking practice). Why? Simple, Cybercriminals tend to attack institutions or organizations that they are always competing with. Another reason might be a retaliation for issues they are experiencing with the establishment. Thus, DDoS attack on schools is usually done by students. This trend might increase as  DDoS service attacks can cost at least 5 dollars on the dark web.

 

HOW TO STOP THESE CYBERATTACKS

 

  • STOP UTILIZING CLOUD-BASED SERVICES

Schools should try to limit the cyber attacks they expose themselves to by halting their use of cloud-based services. Storing documents online can be very risky and it could result in the compromise of the security of those pages. Rather, lecturers and students should use an SD card or flash drive. This will make it hard or even impossible for others to get to the information in there. The only way is through virus and physical theft.

 

  • ESTABLISH THE BYOD (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE) POLICY

I know it sounds like you are losing control if lecturers and students start bringing their purchased devices into the school. However, this policy can create a safety net for securing the sensitive data that administrators send forth and back throughout the day.

The devices brought into the school environment can log into the guest network, while a lecturer’s PC connects to the administrative network. By not allowing everybody into the administrative network, you will witness a lesser access request for the sensitive data. Also, you limit the chance of it falling into the wrong hands.

 

Conclusion

Cybersecurity is essential for the safety of the information your lecturers and students put into the servers of your school. Some of these data are very sensitive, so you would not want it to fall into the wrong hands.

Cyber attacks are becoming more and more habitual in the school setting. Hence, it is time to stand firm and repel these assaults.