Universities should remain vigilant to cyberattacks in the coming weeks – as admissions teams prepare to enrol record numbers of new undergraduates, sector bodies warned.
Ransomware attacks “severely impacted several institutions’ ability to on-board students” in 2020, the groups reminded universities.
Jisc, Universities UK (UUK) and the Association of Colleges released a warning to universities that ransomware attacks posed a growing danger to the universities, with more cases reported in the first half of 2021 than in the whole of 2020. The enrolment process – a critically busy time for universities, when they are handling the information of thousands of new students – is a particularly vulnerable time.
We encourage university leaders to raise awareness among staff of ongoing security threats and promote the use of sector guidance and support
– Alistair Jarvis, UUK
“Some colleges and universities suffered greatly around this time last year, and we hope that the sector is now better prepared to deal with this ongoing threat,” warned Jisc director of security, Henry Hughes.
“Jisc’s security team is braced and ready to help members deal with these, and any cyberattack, and would encourage affected organisations to contact us immediately. Even if our help is not required, intelligence could help others prevent attacks – and we can help share that vital information for the good of the sector.”
In response to this growing threat, Jisc is consulting on a new security policy for Janet, the high-speed network for the UK research and education community it operates, updating the 2018 version with what it anticipates will be a significant overhaul of procedures and policies.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said: “In an increasingly virtual world, it is vital that universities monitor and mitigate potential cybersecurity issues and continue to be cautious. We encourage university leaders to raise awareness among staff of ongoing security threats and promote the use of sector guidance and support.”