School restarts delayed due to cyberattacks

News / School restarts delayed due to cyberattacks

School restarts delayed due to cyberattacks

Following a large ransomware cyber-attack which ultimately destroyed all data stored in the cloud, six schools in the Isle of Wight have had their new September term disrupted and delayed. 

The attack was carried out at the end of July, over the span of two days. Faculty and pupils alike were left locked out of their online systems, causing the entire education timeline to be disrupted. 

A ransomware attack usually consists of a virus, which upon infecting a device encrypts the sensitive data being stored on the system or network, whilst a malicious third party demands a ransom in order to release the data. However, there is not guarantee that paying the ransom will result in the data files being held hostage being released and not tampered with or leaked online. 

During the attack, sensitive data pertaining to the school such as exam plans, lesson plans, financial documents and individual information about each student which were stored online became encrypted and inaccessible. 

The Isle of Wight Education Federation released a statement following the attack, which affected colleges, sixth forms and primary schools: 

“We are working with the local police and local authority, the Department for Education, cyber support and various ICT system providers to move this forward and ensure that necessary and appropriate systems are in place for the new academic year.” 

One of the schools targeted by the ransomware attack, Lanesend Primary School has been the first to announce a delay to the start of the September term as a result of the issues caused by the cyber-attack

“Having spoken to our service provider, we understand that the attack means that all the information that we stored with them has been encrypted. This means we cannot and will not be able to access it again. 

“As you can imagine, the team now have hours, days, and months of work ahead of them to recreate the information that has been lost. In order to assist with this painstaking process, the Trustees have approved the school to close for 3 extra days at the end of the summer holidays. This means the children will not be returning to school until Monday 6th September 2021. We ask that you are patient with the team during this period.” 

The police are said to be investigating but as yet no suspects have been identified and the source of the attack remains unknown. 

This attack comes as part of a new wave of cybercriminal activity targeting the Education Sector, and once again emphasises the need for good cybersecurity within schools. Speaking about the incident in the Isle of Wight, president of McAfee Adam Philpott noted a 1114% increase in cyber threats to the education sector post pandemic.

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