A Derbyshire IT firm is urging schools, colleges and universities to tighten up their data storage systems amid an onslaught of ransomware attacks on the UK education sector.
Axess Systems says that educational institutions could be flirting with disaster if they do not secure their IT backup provision following a 25 per cent increase in concerted cyber attacks on the sector from professional hackers.
The warning comes in the wake of a cyber security alert issued by the Department for Education and an attack on the University of Newcastle, which was held to ransom by a cyber-crime group known as DoppelPaymer last month.
The group stole files containing student and staff data and threatened to post them online unless it received a payment, forcing the university to withdraw access to its study materials for on-campus and online induction and teaching while it put together a recovery plan.
Other ransomware attacks can disable IT systems until the ransom is paid, with attacks taking the form of phishing emails or the hacking of unsecured ports on remote desktop protocols.
The DofE recommended a number of ways in which schools and universities could protect themselves, including installing anti-virus software, educating staff on cyber security and having up-to-date and tested offline back-up systems.
Axess Systems is one of a number of UK IT providers capable of supplying a cost-effective Backup as a Service package, which offers secure off-site storage for organisations’ data with recovery expertise thrown in.
Founder and managing director, Ed Morton, said: “Sadly, the confusion caused by the coronavirus lockdown and the need to ensure that students and staff can work remotely is making schools, colleges and universities vulnerable to cyber-crime, so it’s no surprise to see a spike in ransomware attack.
“We have seen first-hand with clients how disruptive this ransomware can be and in a school it could result in students losing their work because the IT system hasn’t been backed up properly.
“Putting in a reliable backup service is very rarely a priority, but with ransomware attacks on the increase, schools and colleges will save themselves a huge amount of trouble and heartache later on if they take steps now to counter this rise in cyber-crime.”
Founded 20 years ago, Axess Systems employs 20 people at its head office in Denby and its regional office in Southampton and is one of the country’s leading IT infrastructure providers.
It specialises in supplying and maintaining Microsoft Applications and Citrix, a digital workspace technology which allows staff to work from anywhere, on any device and any network, and works with a wide range of organisations including NHS Trusts, fire and rescue services and investment banks.
Axess is one of only 11 UK firms to have achieved the coveted Gold Citrix Solution Advisor level with a specialism in virtualisation.