New cyber security data reveals the impact of attacks on schools

11 Jun 2024 UK SIC

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) recently released the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2024, highlighting that 71% of secondary schools experienced a cyber breach or attack in the past year, in contrast to 52% of primary schools.

This survey sheds light on the prevalence of cyber attacks in schools and the measures they are taking to combat these threats.

Phishing attacks remain predominant

Phishing remains the most frequent type of cyber breach within educational institutions with the survey showing that 92% of primary schools and 89% of secondary schools reported encountering phishing attempts. This aligns with broader findings from 2022, underscoring phishing as the most common cybersecurity threat.

Strategies to address cybersecurity risks

The survey also indicated a decline in other forms of cyber attacks compared to 2023, suggesting that schools have strengthened their efforts to mitigate these risks. Despite their commitment to cybersecurity, primary and secondary schools were less likely than colleges and universities to seek external advice and resources.

Most schools have proactively identified potential cybersecurity risks by conducting audits, penetration testing, and investing in threat intelligence. Notably, 75% of primary schools and 81% of secondary schools have established cybersecurity policies. Nonetheless, primary schools were found to have less advanced approaches compared to their secondary counterparts.

Enhancing school cybersecurity

Securing adequate funding for cybersecurity remains a significant concern for many schools, particularly given budget constraints. This emphasizes the need for cost-effective cybersecurity solutions.

Free resources such as CyberSecure Check for Schools, developed by SWGfL for the Department for Education (DfE), provide UK schools with tools to assess and improve their cybersecurity measures. This self-assessment tool helps schools identify strengths and areas for improvement, promoting consistency in cybersecurity practices across educational institutions.

By utilizing CyberSecure Check, schools can better prepare for and manage evolving cybersecurity threats, ensuring a safer digital environment for students and staff.

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