Seventy-eight percent of UK headteachers believe their school is under an increased risk of cyber-attacks as a result of remote learning, a new survey from Cantium Business Solutions has revealed.
The survey, conducted in partnership with Censuswide, also showed that nearly four in ten (37%) of respondents including school staff and IT professionals do not see cyber security as a high priority.
On a national level, this could mean that almost 12,000 schools are at greater risk of suffering from a cyber-attack this year.
The data was collected this January from just over 500 headteachers and IT decision makers operating in UK schools.
Attacks on the rise
Of those surveyed, two-thirds had been victims of cyber-attacks over the last 18 months.
The last year has been particularly challenging for the education sector and it’s clear that the shift to remote learning has left many schools feeling vulnerable and unprepared to protect themselves against cyber criminals. As the threat landscape evolves and schools continue to adopt digital technologies, it’s important to invest in cyber security measures, education and expertise that can help protect against malicious activity. Cyber security doesn’t just fall down to the IT department, it’s a mindset and level of awareness that helps to prevent cyber-attacks and safeguard staff and pupils – Mark Scott, CEO at Cantium Business Solutions
Only 35% agreed that they were properly equipped to protect their schools against such activity in the future.
East of England at greater risk
The survey showed that schools in the East of England were under the biggest threat of cyber-attacks, with 84% of institutes in this region having suffered one during the last 18 months compared to the nationwide average of 66%.
Schools in this area also reported feeling under greater threat, with 55% of schools noting an increase in the risk of attack.
An ‘easy’ target
Detective Inspector Fiona Bail, head of cyber and innovation at the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre, noted the significance of the strain remote learning placed on the education system, which was already “a key target” for cyber-attacks.
“Cybercrime continues to increase and unfortunately there is no evidence that the number or scale of attacks will be decreasing soon,” she commented.
“Education are key targets due to the sensitive nature of the data that they hold, as well as the complexities of the systems involved, which make secure configuration and implementation of controls tricky.
“Educational institutions are also easy targets for students who are experimenting with their cyber skills, so being able to identify and nurture technical talent is a problem which other businesses may not have to face.
“Covid has already placed huge demands on the education sector and having a cyber-attack occur, losing access to key files and data, or being unable to teach, is a situation that no one wants.”
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