Ransomware: universities also in the sights

The number of ransomware attacks targeting universities has doubled over the past year and the cost of ransom demands is rising as information security teams battle cyber attacks.

An analysis of ransomware attacks on higher education found that attacks on universities in 2020 increased 100% from 2019, and the average ransom demand now stands at $ 447,000.

The sharp rise in the number of ransomware attacks, combined with the six-figure sums demanded by cybercriminal groups in exchange for the decryption key, make ransomware the number one threat to university cybersecurity, according to the study. American company BlueVoyant.

Ransomware is a problem across all industries, but for higher education it is a particular problem: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means students are being taught online while many academics are also working from home.

Overloaded IT departments might not have the capacity to fully take care of security, giving cybercriminals an opening to exploit.

“Operating in the midst of the pandemic opens up even more possibilities for the adversary,” Austin Berglas, Global Head of Professional Services at BlueVoyant, told .

IT staff already need to make sure students and staff have the tools they need to complete distance learning, from setting up devices and installing new software and cameras to assistance to users in difficulty with new technologies. “These schools may not have the resources to properly secure the network,” he said.

This means that universities could be seen as an easy target for cyber attackers – and the lack of IT resources, combined with the fact that students and staff depend on network availability, means that many victims of cyber attacks. ransomware in higher education will consider paying a ransom note of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin in order to restore the network as quickly as possible.

Researchers suggest that in many cases, cybercriminals specifically target universities because they perceive them to be an easy target, and it is easier to get ransom from these institutions than from companies in other industries. , which could potentially provide more lucrative targets, but which require more effort from the attackers.

According to the report, more than three-quarters of the universities surveyed had open ports for remote desktops, and more than 60% had open ports for databases – the two preferred entry points for cyber attackers for broadcasting. ransomware.

While cyber attacks and ransomware continue to pose a threat to universities – and will continue to do so even after classroom teaching resumes – there are things that can be done to improve cybersecurity and reduce the risk of fall victim to malicious hackers.

This includes implementing multi-factor authentication on all email accounts, so that while cybercriminals can steal login credentials, it is much more difficult for them to exploit them to gain access to the network.

“Provide multi-factor authentication using a single sign-on solution. Multi-factor authentication will prevent the majority of phishing attacks, which is one of the primary means of ransomware deployment,” said Berglas.

It is also recommended that universities monitor networks for abnormal behavior, such as fast logins or multiple account logins from the same location, as this could indicate suspicious activity.

Source: “.com”

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