Tackling the cyber threat in Higher Education

Cybersecurity has become a major concern for organizations across all sectors, and the education sector is no exception. In the UK, education institutions have been targeted by cybercriminals, which has resulted in the loss of sensitive information and financial losses. In this blog, we will discuss the cybersecurity challenges faced by the UK education sector and how they can work to mitigate cyber risks.

Challenges Faced by the UK Education Sector:

Cyber Attacks: Education institutions are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks due to the vast amount of personal and sensitive data that they hold. Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in their networks, and education institutions can be an easy target due to their limited resources and outdated security systems.

Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks are a common threat to the education sector. Cybercriminals often send phishing emails to students, staff, parents, and alumni, posing as legitimate organizations, in an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as login credentials and financial information.

Ransomware Attacks: Ransomware attacks are a growing threat to the education sector, where cybercriminals encrypt an organization’s data and demand a ransom to unlock it. Educational institutions that are unable to recover their data may have to pay a large sum to retrieve it or suffer data loss.

Human Error: The education sector is highly reliant on human interaction, and human error can be a significant risk factor. Misconfiguration of security systems, poor password hygiene, and lack of awareness training can all result in data breaches.

In recent years, there have been several high-profile cyber security breaches in the UK education sector. For example, in 2019, the University of Greenwich was fined £120,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after a data breach exposed the personal information of nearly 20,000 people. Greenwich said it had carried out “an unprecedented overhaul” of its data protection and security systems since the discovery of the breach, and it had invested in both technology and staff.  They also go on to comment “No organisation can say it will be immune to unauthorised access in the future, but we can say with confidence to our students, staff, alumni and other stakeholders, that our systems are far more robust than they were as a result of the changes we have made.”

In a recent survey “Cyber security breaches survey 2023: education institutions annex”, it highlights that all types of education institutions are more likely to identify breaches or attacks than the average UK business.  It is noted that Half (50%) of higher education institutions and three in ten further education colleges (31%) reported experiencing breaches or attacks at least weekly.  When you combine these stats with the main challenges we mentioned above it can be very challenging for institutions to be in control and on top of their cyber security posture.

There are several ways in which institutions can improve, and are improving, their posture by implementing the measures or by following some of the guidance outlined below:

  • the national Cyber Aware communications campaign, which offers tips and advice to protect individuals and organisations against cyber crime
  • the 10 Steps to Cyber Security guidance, which aims to summarise what organisations should do to protect themselves
  • the government-endorsed Cyber Essentials scheme, which enables organisations to be certified independently for having met a good-practice standard in cyber security
  • the NCSC’s Board Toolkit, which helps management boards to understand their obligations, and to discuss cyber security with the technical experts in their organisation.

Also, the UK education sector can work with cybersecurity managed service organizations to mitigate the cyber risks they face. Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) offer a range of services that can help educational institutions improve their cybersecurity posture. Some of the key services include:

Vulnerability Management: MSSPs can perform regular vulnerability assessments to identify weaknesses in the institution’s security system, such as outdated software and misconfigured systems. This can help educational institutions to proactively address potential security risks before they are exploited by cybercriminals.

Threat Intelligence: MSSPs can provide real-time threat intelligence and analysis of potential threats to the education sector. This information can help educational institutions to understand and mitigate potential threats, such as phishing attacks and ransomware attacks.

Security Operations Centre: MSSPs can provide a dedicated Security Operations Center (SOC) to monitor the education institution’s security systems 24/7. This can help educational institutions to identify and respond to potential security incidents quickly, reducing the impact of any breaches.

Awareness Training: MSSPs can provide cybersecurity awareness training to staff and students to help them recognize potential security threats, such as phishing emails and social engineering attacks. This can help to reduce the risk of human error and improve the overall security posture of the institution.

In conclusion, the UK education sector is facing a growing threat from cybercriminals, and it is essential that educational institutions take proactive steps to mitigate these risks. Working with cybersecurity managed service organizations can help educational institutions to identify and address potential security threats and improve their overall cybersecurity posture. By implementing these measures, educational institutions can protect their sensitive data and safeguard the trust and confidence of their stakeholders.

As a Managed Cyber Security Service Provider norm. help organisations reduce their cyber risk with a multi-award-winning managed service, smartbloc.TM

smartbloc. gives companies comprehensive protection against known and unknown cyber threats. It also delivers unrivalled visibility into the strength of current cyber security defences. By delivering an overall Cyber Resilience Score and no-drama insight into how well protected an organisation is, management teams can accurately assess their level of risk and act accordingly.

With norm.’s analysts by your side every step of the way nothing is left to guess work, you can go about your day-to-day while we take care of your cyber risk, its’s as simple as that.

Request a meeting below with one of our cyber consultants to get started today! or read more about how norm. can help tackle cyber security for Higher Education organisations.



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