The Unique Cybersecurity Threats Facing Education Institutions | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The education sector, from universities to primary schools, is facing unique cybersecurity risks and threats due to the nature of their sensitive data.

According to Trustwave, a cybersecurity and managed security services provider, the UK education sector’s extensive infrastructure leaves it ripe to unique cyber challenges.

The wide range of devices and systems involved in education opens up several avenues for attackers to target schools. As educational institutions continue to shift towards online education, there is an escalating exposure of networked devices and systems.

Furthermore, decentralised IT management, and in some cases, limited cybersecurity resources often lead to inconsistent security policies and inadequate controls.

As well, education institutions and their third-party suppliers store large volumes of personal data, which increases the risk and impact of data breaches and identify theft.

Their heavy reliance on digital communication and online collaboration platforms increases the risk of phishing and social engineering attacks. The risk is further heightened by typical open internet access policies and BYOD practices in these institutions.

Adding these risks is the involvement of many educational institutions in research and their possession of sensitive intellectual property, making them attractive targets for cyber-criminals and state actors.

Collaborative activity with entities like the government and military increases their risk exposure, and with the continuing evolution of cyber threats creates challenges their cybersecurity preparedness.

Looking specifically at the risks facing the universities, Trustwave’s 2024 Education Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies revealed some of the direct threat patterns these educational institutions face.

The ‘Russian Market’ on the dark web has listed over 82,000 logs containing login credentials for subdomains of just one university in the US, begging the question of how many they have from UK institutions.

Threat actors are also selling domain level access to Azure and Microsoft services withing a university’s or school’s network for £7,500.

In a single year, Trustwave researchers monitored 352 ransomware claims against educational institutions. The average recovery cost of a ransomware account is estimated as £1.7m.

The research also shows 1.8m devices related to the education industry are being publicly exposed globally with a staggering 133,000 in the UK.

Students are being routinely preyed upon with fake job offers – lucrative opportunities offering high compensation and flexible working hours.

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In some cases, students have received fraudulent checks with instructors to deposit it and forward a proton of the funds elsewhere.

Fake university communication emails have also been identified, with threat actors impersonating the university’s IT department. These emails typically include urgent calls to action, such as requests to verify accounts and direct students to fake websites designed to harvest their credentials.

“The education sector faces an incredible challenge in navigating a diverse and fluid attack surface with increasing financial pressures, leaving little room for error as digital leaders aim to sustain resilience to threats,” said Trustwave CISO Kory Daniels.

“Student, staff, alumni, and professor data each provide different lures and motivators for threat actors to maliciously target the institution, or the individuals affiliated. Our latest threat briefing serves as a vital resource for cyber defenders, equipping them with actionable insights in navigating the latest threats and defenses of their students, staff, and data.”


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National Cyber Security