With the world moving towards digital spaces, cyber crimes are on the rise. No institution, not even educational ones, is safe from ransomware and malware attacks that steal information, ask for ransom, or threaten to release or sell the information to the public. Even though educational institutes don’t hold a large sum of money, they are a treasure of research. Since most universities work with the government on critical health, energy, and military aspects, hackers find them an attractive and easy target.
Ransomware attackers are tricky and sophisticated in their dealings. This type of cyber attack has visited more than 13 percent of schools. In addition, the UK has experienced more than 33 percent of their universities facing ransomware threats, according to the information published by Topline Comms.
What is Ransomware?
Some malicious software attacks computer servers, laptops, mobile devices, and desktops, and ransomware is one of them. These attacks spread across the entire campus system. The virus can easily encrypt every piece of information on the device by displaying a ransom notification to the user. The notification usually contains information the owner can use to pay an online ransom in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to the hacker before unlocking the files.
Moreover, the ransom often increases if the user refuses to pay the money before the deadline, or perhaps, the hacker may destroy or expose the files. Some also make the information inaccessible by using decryption keys.
That said, institutes are identifying such threats to their database and are increasingly partnering with IT providers to gain IT automation benefits. These professionals implement various security standards while adhering to security and compliance policies, reducing the risk of security breaches. In case you are wondering why ransomware attacks are on the rise in these institutes, the following part is for you.
1. Impact Of Covid-19 on Remote Workplace
Ultimately, the pandemic is a primary reason many institutes are adopting a hybrid or digital learning AI, creating space for vulnerability. With the adoption, students can access information using VPNs and other online tools. This is because anyone can access the system anywhere, with no device, leaving schools open to attack since they can’t fully protect each device.
Ransomware attackers use this opportunity to access and compromise school data. The innovation allows attackers to access school networks without being noticed. Such attacks result in stolen data or cause damage to school security. Before security can detect ransomware on a network, the damages could have escalated, making it hard to secure the network on time.
2. Financial Profit
The primary benefit of ransomware attacks is to make money. Such an attacker holds the school files hostage, demanding a ransom to release or restore the files. The payment is the payoff. For example, the University of California paid a ransom of $1 million to get back their Medical School information from hackers.
Another university – Utah, also remitted over $450,000 to cybercriminals that attacked their server. These criminals hack school payment systems to extract money from school accounts, students, or parents.
3. Easy Targets
It is easier to get into school servers because of their vulnerable tech infrastructure for learning. This tech stores data more than many organizations. However, the investment has a default in security control over hackers, making it easy to reach them. Sometimes these criminals use the student to get to the school server by offering them false promises. Sadly, many educational institutes still need to educate their students against such crimes, which include phishing and other engineering scams.
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4. Valuable Research Data
Educational institutes have the highest research data on their server. The information is valuable in the wider world. Besides, universities can generate or access considerable research that costs tons of money on the black market. For example, two Singapore universities were targeted and attacked by hackers to extract classified government research in the schools.
Besides, some universities work hand-in-hand with the government on technology research and other development projects that impact the economy, politics, military, and other sectors.
5. Access to Larger Networks
Educational system implementation of hybrid learning increases the number of computers in schools. Also, remote learning increases the chances for hackers to access sensitive data from a school or steal something bigger. The excess computers make it hard to monitor each activity on the server due to thousands of student users. The challenge makes it easy for hackers to crawl into the server and create fake accounts, test security protocol or steal data without alerting the authorities.
6. Targeted Scams
Abundant info circulates in educational institutions, making them a target for many cyber criminals. Scammers can intercept the database and get access to vital information like birthdays, addresses, etc., that can help them impersonate the person, friend, or family member.
It is challenging to avoid these scams, but educational institutes can deploy ways to prevent widespread ransomware attacks. The good news is there is a sophisticated technology that can help shield educational institutions from falling prey to hacking. Also, schools should focus on researching ransomware mitigation solutions and adopt adequate IT resources to combat the issue.
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