British Schools & Universities Suffer Attacks

Schools across Nottinghamshire and Belfast’s Queen’s University (pictured) have had to shut down their IT networks after their systems were hit by cyber attacks last week. At the same time, Fifteen secondary schools across Nottinghamshire have been forced to shut down their IT networks after the central trust that manages them was hit by a “sophisticated” cyber attack.

Queen's University in Belfast (QUB) has had to suspend access to "a number of university systems" as a precaution following an attempted cyber-attack. The university said, though, there was "currently no evidence" that any data had been stolen, but Queen's University also said that investigations into the attack was ongoing. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was "aware" of an incident affecting Queen's University and schools and was working to understand the impacts.

All of the schools in Nottinghamshire are part of the Nova Education Trust have had no access to their “usual modes of communication” since 3 March, including email, phones and their websites. This means that online learning provisions set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic cannot currently go ahead for pupils learning from home.A spokesperson for the Nova Education Trust said the attack, which resulted in unauthorised access to its infrastructure, caused the trust to temporarily shut down all IT systems as a security precaution while the central IT team investigates its origins and potential impact.

Each school involved with the trust has also been advised to shut their IT systems down while the investigation is conducted, with many warning students to not access material previously sent from the school via channels such email, Dojo, or Microsoft Teams.

The method of attack and the culprits are as yet unknown, but the incident shares lots of similarities with a spate of ransomware attacks that disrupted schools, colleges and universities in 2020.  This was when Newcastle University was held to ransom after cyber criminals hacked into its IT systems. This followed another cyber hack of Northumbria University, which had to cancel exams.

NCSC:     Computer Weekly:      ITPro:       BBC:   

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