Best Practice

Rising threat of cyber-attack: Common methods and what schools can do about it

Cyber-attacks are a constant threat for schools with the Information Commissioner’s Office reporting increasing incidents. Helen Osgood looks at the common methods being employed by criminals and how schools might begin to protect themselves
Image: Adobe Stock

Cyber-attacks on schools are no longer uncommon, with notable attacks making the news in just the last few weeks.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has also recently revealed that it received reports of more than 3,000 cyber-breaches in 2023, with the education sector making up 11% of those – a notable increase on 2022 (ICO, 2024).

Schools have a crucial role to play in keeping data safe and secure and there are preventative actions that we can take to safeguard our systems, our children, and ourselves.

To begin with, schools should meet the Department for Education’s cyber-security standards (DfE, 2024) as a minimum. For example, protecting all devices behind a firewall, using multi-factor authentication, conducting regular data protection impact assessments, and having at least three back-up copies of important data on at least two separate drives, with one being kept offsite. For more tips, see this SecEd article from the ICO (Joorawan, 2023).

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