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Education Under Attack: Confidential data leaked in ransomware attacks

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Attack Brief

Confidential documents from 14 schools containing student passport scans, staff pay scales, contract details and pupil SEN information have been leaked by online hackers in a string of attacks in September of 2022. One of the affected schools, Pates Grammar School, was targeted by “Vice Society”, a hacking group that was threatening to leak the stolen information if a ransom payment is not made.

Included in this potential information leak was a folder marked “Passports” containing passport scans from pupils and parents for school excursions dated as far back as 2011. Documents on the principals pay roll history and student bursary fund recipients are also contained in a folder marked “confidential”.

Education Under Siege: Hackers Step Up Attacks

Due to a lack of investment towards cybersecurity, educational organisations are seen as a vulnerable and valuable target to cyber criminals. Risks also relate to the large network of devices connected to the school system at one time, putting personal and private information of teachers, students, and visitors in the scope of potential attackers.

What do cyber-criminals have to gain from the education sector?

First and foremost a cyber hacker’s main motivation for these attacks is money. In July of 2022 the British cyber security organisation Sophos found in a report that 56% of  lower education centres and 64% of higher education institutions had been affected by a ransomware attacks. Not only do these attacks affect the individuals who had their private data leaked, but the cost for these schools to recover from data breaches such as this one is tremendous. The same Sophos report found that the average cost to remediate attacks in lower and high education is 1.5 Million dollars, and typically takes these schools 1-3 months to recover.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian Enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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