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School principals: are you prepared for ransomware?

| April 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Action Fraud, the UK’s cybercrime and fraud reporting centre, has warned schools all over the UK about the proliferation of “cold calls” from suspicious individuals claiming to work for “the Department of Education”.

Such callers request the personal contact details of the school principal, claiming that they have sensitive information that cannot be sent to a general e-mail address. Because the fraudulent callers emphasise that the nature of the content is serious and urgent (many times, it may be said to do with school safety, health or examinations), unwitting principals often capitulate.

They receive, via e-mail, a zip file that contains ransomware, disguised as a Word or Excel document. Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage or gain access to a computer system. Encrypting ransomware is the most prominent and worrisome global cyberthreat at the moment, says cybersecurity journalist, Andra Saharia.

It is designed to block system files and demand payment to provide the victim with the key that can decrypt the blocked content. Action Fraud has warned schools and universities to lock their cybergates. They must be vigilant in checking all details on incoming emails. For example, in the UK messages from the “Department of Education” will be suspicious, while those from the “Department for Education (DfE)” would appear to be authentic.

A leading UK insurance law and risk firm has announced in a public statement that schools are “low-hanging fruit” for criminals. Hackers and other cybercriminals find it easy to get the information they want from unknowing staff members, websites and other social media platforms. Fraudsters frequently target schools to obtain sensitive information about students, putting them at great risk. Many schools do not update their data protection as often as they should, and malware can be used to export information, as well as locking users out. Action Fraud says that one in three universities in the UK face cyber-attacks on an hourly basis, with exam and dissertation results targeted alongside personal data and research. 

Category: Autumn 2017, e-Education

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