Home Education Higher, Lower Education Institutions Suffer 60 percent Cyber Attacks -Report

Higher, Lower Education Institutions Suffer 60 percent Cyber Attacks -Report

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Higher and lower education institutions witnessed a 60 percent increase in cyberattacks in 2021. The Sophos 2022 Report has shown.

The report titled ‘The State of Ransomware in Education 2022’ indicated that both Higher and lower education institutions were hit with ransomware, witnessing 60 percent attacks in 2021 compared to 44 percent in 2020.

According to the new sectoral survey report, Education institutions faced the highest data encryption rate 73 percent compared to other sectors 65 percent, and the longest recovery time, with 7 percent taking at least three months to recover – almost double the average time for other sectors.

The Sophos Report also showed that Education institutions report the highest propensity to experience operational and commercial impacts from ransomware attacks compared to other sectors as 97 percent of higher education and 94 percent of lower education respondents say attacks impacted their ability to operate, while 96 percent of higher education and 92 percent of lower education respondents in the private sector further report business and revenue loss.

The report further showed that only 2 percent of education institutions recovered all of their encrypted data after paying a ransom (down from 4 percent in 2020); schools, on average, were able to recover 62 percent of encrypted data after paying ransoms (down from 68 percent in 2020).

Higher education institutions in particular report the longest ransomware recovery time; while 40 percent say it takes at least one month to recover (20 percent for other sectors), 9 percent report it takes three to six months.

Chester Wisniewski, Principal Research Scientist at Sophos opines that Schools are among those being hit the hardest by ransomware.
According to Wisniewski schools are prime targets for attackers because of their overall lack of strong cybersecurity defenses and the goldmine of personal data they hold.

“Education institutions are less likely than others to detect in-progress attacks, which naturally leads to higher attack success and encryption rates.

Considering the encrypted data is most likely confidential student records, the impact is far greater than what most industries would experience.

Even if a portion of the data is restored, there is no guarantee what data the attackers will return, and, even then, the damage is already done, further burdening the victimized schools with high recovery costs and sometimes even bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, these attacks are not going to stop, so the only way to get ahead is to prioritize building up anti-ransomware defenses to identify and mitigate attacks before encryption is possible.”

Interestingly, education institutions report the highest rate of cyber insurance payout on ransomware claims (100 percent higher education, 99 percent lower education). However, as a whole, the sector has one of the lowest rates of cyber insurance coverage against ransomware (78 percent compared to 83 percent for other sectors).

“Four out of 10 schools say fewer insurance providers are offering them coverage, while nearly half (49 percent) report that the level of cybersecurity they need to qualify for coverage has gone up,” said Wisniewski.

“Cyber insurance providers are becoming more selective when it comes to accepting customers, and education organizations need help to meet these higher standards.

With limited budgets, schools should work closely with trusted security professionals to ensure that resources are being allocated toward the right solutions that will deliver the best security outcomes and also help meet insurance standards.”

In the light of the survey findings, Sophos experts recommend the following best practices for all organisations across all sectors:

Install and maintain high-quality defenses across all points in the environment. Review security controls regularly and make sure they continue to meet the organization’s needs Proactively hunt for threats to identify and stop adversaries before they can execute attacks – if the team lacks the time or skills to do this in-house, outsource to a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) team Harden the IT environment by searching for and closing key security gaps: unpatched devices, unprotected machines and open RDP ports, for example.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions are ideal for this purpose Prepare for the worst, and have an updated plan in place of a worst-case incident scenario Make backups, and practice restoring from them to ensure minimize disruption and recovery time

The State of Ransomware in Education 2022 survey polled 5,600 IT professionals, including 320 lower education respondents and 410 high education respondents, in mid-sized organizations (100-5,000 employees) across 31 countries.

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