Why is cybersecurity so important in the educational sector?

Despite the educational sector lacking staffing, resources, and funding, it remains a target for cybercriminals. The reality is, each year it is becoming more common to hear of educational institutions being hit by cyber-attacks.

Why is the educational sector a target?

There are many reasons why the educational sector is a target, including:


  • To cause disruptionDistributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have been unleashed against all forms of academia. The attack method is easy for novice cybercriminals to use, and success is common where the institute’s cybersecurity is weak or untested.
  • To steal data – Almost all educational establishments hold staff and student data. So, data theft is an attractive motive for attackers.
  • Espionage – Universities and other high-level institutions conduct research, holding valuable intellectual property on their network.
  • For financial gain – Most universities process a vast number of financial transactions, including payment of student fees. A successful attack against a university can result in the attacker intercepting payments or payment data.

How cyber-attacks target educational institutions

The attacks against an educational institution’s cybersecurity include:


  • Ransomware and malware – These attacks prevent users (staff and students) from accessing their networks or files, causing significant disruption. The device or network is infected using a trojan, a legitimate-looking attachment or file.
  • Phishing – Email, chat, or text messages are designed to look authentic and trick the recipient into trusting the source. Phishing is the most significant and common threat for higher institutions, with the cyber-attacker attempting to gain user credentials.


Accidents and a lack of awareness by both students and staff often compromise the network. Insufficient training and poor cyber-hygiene practices are the most common underlying causes.

What can be done to prevent cyber-attacks?

Academic establishments can take four actions to prevent cyber-attacks:


  1. Educate your staff and employees – All staff, from teachers to administrators, should be educated on how to spot suspicious activity. It is crucial to invest in cyber incident planning and response training for IT staff.
  2. Encourage staff and students to use two-step factor authentication – The first step is usually a password or PIN; the second step could be biometrics or a human verification check.
  3. Install protection against ransomware, DDoS and phishing attacks – Security software is readily available to provide the protection required.
  4. Conduct live-fire drills – Administrators conduct mock cyber-attacks to ensure teachers, students, and other users know how to use their training.


Educational Institutions need to take seriously how they secure data from unauthorised access, maintain their reputation, and protect staff, students, and the institution.


Contact OmniCyber today to find out how we can help secure your organisation!

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