The Open University has been hit by over 1m email attacks this year

The 1,191,312 malicious email attacks the institution experienced between January and September 2020 were fortunately all blocked by the institution’s servers

London-based distance learning provider, The Open University, has been hit by 1,191,312 malicious email attacks over just nine months this year (January–September 2020), according to official data obtained by think tank Parliament Street, via a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Thankfully, all malicious emails sent – including spam, malware and phishing attacks – were successfully blocked by the institution’s servers.

In its response to the think tank, The Open University also revealed that the attacks were equally divided over the weeks between January and September this year, with approximately 132,368 email attacks and spam messages blocked each month.

Additionally, data showed that 6,804 messages were blocked due to suspicion of malware and 16,452 phishing emails were detected and blocked.

“The nature of The Open University, and the fact that a majority of its courses take place online, means cyber attackers will inevitably attempt to target the abundance of data stored in its servers, hence the significant quantity of scam attacks facing the institution,” said Chris Ross, SVP of sales, international, at Barracuda Networks.

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“To add to this, our recent research revealed that spear-phishing attacks are disproportionately targeting educational institutions across the world, with over 3.5 million phishing emails hitting over 1,000 global schools and universities from June through to September of this year.

“Whilst it is certainly a good thing that The Open University has, so far, managed to successfully protect itself from a data breach,” added Ross, “it is important that security standards are maintained, and the right software and training is constantly updated, to keep pace with the rapidly changing cyber threat-scape. Furthermore, due to the sensitivity of information stored in its servers, education institutions must ensure that all data is backed up in a third-party, encrypted cloud backup solution, which will also enable protection from the growing trend in ransomware attacks facing universities.”


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