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Expert commentary: Maidstone secondary school hit by cyber attack

September 2023 by Matt Aldridge, Principal Solutions Consultant at OpenText Security Solutions

After St Augustine Academy, a secondary school in Maidstone, has been hit by a cyberattack with pupil and parental data encrypted. The comment by Matt Aldridge, Principal Solutions Consultant at OpenText Cybersecurity:

“This attack on St Augustine Academy is very concerning, as pupils are just beginning the school year, with many children experiencing these schools for the first time, so emotions are already running high. Also, the sensitive data stolen from pupils and staff could end up in the wrong hands and be used for targeted social engineering attacks on the staff and pupil families involved.

This attack emphasises the relevance of changes last year by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to allow schools to use their free Web Check and Mail Check services as part of their Active Cyber Defence suite – any schools not making use of these facilities and other NCSC offerings should look into this as a matter of urgency.
As educational institutions are increasingly relying on digital technologies to streamline their services, hackers are finding new ways to attack their IT systems and steal and/or encrypt critical data. It’s crucial that educational institutions keep their sensitive data secure to maintain trust among their pupils, staff, and parent communities.
To improve cyber-resilience, organisations from every sector must put processes in place to ensure they keep sensitive data secure – and perform regular risk reviews. This includes investing in backup tools to minimise the risk of data loss and strengthening cybersecurity awareness among staff and educating pupils on the risks and how to avoid attacks. Security Awareness Training materials need to be engaging and regularly updated to reflect the latest threat trends, and regular simulations should be run to ensure that the training is effective.”

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