The education sector reported the highest rate of ransomware attacks in 2022, according to Sophos, a global leader in cybersecurity.
In the report titled, “The State of Ransomware in Education 2023”, over the past year, 79% of tertiary educational institutions and 80% of lower educational organizations surveyed reported being hit by ransomware.
The sector also reported one of the highest rates of ransom payment, with more than half of higher institutions paying the ransom.
However, paying the ransom significantly increased recovery costs and lengthened recovery times for victims.
“While most schools are not cash-rich, they are very highly visible targets with immediate widespread impact in their communities,” said Chester Wisniewski, field CTO, Sophos.
“The pressure to keep the doors open and respond to calls from parents to ‘do something’ likely leads to pressure to solve the problem as quickly as possible without regard for cost.”
“Unfortunately, the data doesn’t support that paying ransoms resolves these attacks more quickly, but it is likely a factor in victim selection for the criminals.”
The root causes of ransomware attacks in the education sector were similar to those across all sectors.
However, there was a significantly greater number of attacks involving compromised credentials.
Sophos recommends strengthening defensive shields with security tools that defend against common attack vectors and adopting multifactor authentication (MFA) technology to reduce the risk of compromise.
The State of Ransomware 2023 survey polled 3,000 IT/cybersecurity leaders in organizations with between 100 and 5,000 employees, including 400 from the education sector, across 14 countries in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific.
This includes 200 from lower education [up to 18 years] and 200 from higher education [above 18 years] and both public and private sector education providers.