Sector bodies have united to warn colleges and universities to remain vigilant for cyber attacks that could once again disrupt the ongoing enrolment processes.
The warning from Jisc, Universities UK and the Association of Colleges, comes a year after ransomware attacks severely impacted several institutions’ ability to on-board students.
This was the first time that cyber attacks had upset this critical period in the academic year. Since then, ransomware has become one of the top cyber security threats to the education sector, with more of this type of attack recorded in the first half of 2021 than in the whole of 2020.
Jisc and the NCSC have issued ransomware alerts on several occasions over the past 12 months.
Jisc’s director of security, Henry Hughes, says:
“Some colleges and universities suffered greatly around this time last year, and we hope that the sector is now better prepared to deal with this ongoing threat.
“Jisc’s security team is braced and ready to help members deal with these, and any cyber attacks, and would encourage affected organisations to contact us immediately. Even if our help is not required, intelligence could help others prevent attacks – and we can help share that vital information for the good of the sector.”
David Hughes, chief executive at Association of Colleges says:
“Cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on colleges, with learning severely interrupted, particularly now that there is more reliance on online learning during the pandemic.
“Nobody wants to learn the lesson too late, so I would strongly encourage every college leader and governing body to stress-test their cyber security, ensuring it can stand up to the malicious attacks that sadly seem to be hitting more and more institutions.”
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK says:
“In an increasingly virtual world, it is vital that universities monitor and mitigate potential cyber security issues and continue to be cautious. We encourage university leaders to raise awareness among staff of ongoing security threats and promote the use of sector guidance and support.”
This year, Jisc has invested heavily in its cyber defence capability and is now consulting with the sector on further measures to protect the national research and education network, Janet, on which all UK colleges, universities and research centres rely.
To find out more about the proposed new principles and to provide feedback, visit the consultation pages and register, free, for our online briefing, ‘increasing security posture and threat intelligence sharing,’ on 31 August.