Phishing and ransomware

Keeping your school safe from phishing and ransomware.

There are lots of different types of cyber security threats we need to be aware of, but the most common ones are phishing and ransomware. As of January 2023, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has received over 17 million reported scams.

phishing and ransomware

Did you know that the first case of phishing happened in 1995? Since then, scammers are much more sophisticated with how they target people. This means it’s harder to differentiate what’s real and what could be a scam. So if an email, call or message makes you suspicious, stop, think and check.

Let’s look at some of the different types of scams you need to be aware of and how to help keep your school, students and staff safe!

What is phishing?

Phishing is where criminals pose as trusted senders to ‘fish’ for your personal information. Phishing attacks aim to steal or damage your sensitive data by tricking you into revealing your personal information (such as passwords or credit card details). They’ll often use emails, text messages or phone calls.

The most common form of phishing is email phishing. Attackers will often disguise themselves as large companies that you’re likely familiar with (such as Microsoft, Amazon or Google) making you think it’s from a trustworthy source. Also, they’ll get large amounts of personal data (both legally and illegally) meaning they can produce more believable and personalised content.

Most phishing attacks target a lot of people at once. However spear phishing targets individuals by researching their jobs and social lives. This means they send highly customised and personal content, making you think it’s genuine. Phishing attempts might also involve installing malware on your system.

What is malware?

Malware is malicious software. The most common ways it accesses your system are through the internet and from emails. From being disguised as trustworthy attachments in emails, to unknowingly downloading infected files, malware can be sneaky!

If you let it run on your device or network, it causes harm by locking your device or making it unusable, stealing or deleting data, gaining access to your systems or services and stealing money.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is an especially nasty piece of malware. It stops you from accessing your computer or by stealing, deleting or encrypting the data on it. But it can also spread to other machines on your network.

Usually you’ll receive a notification from the criminal demanding a ransom to be paid in exchange for restoring your access or data. They may also threaten to leak any data they steal if you don’t pay.

And even if you do pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee of its return. Your computer may still be infected and you’re more likely to be targeted again in the future.

How to keep your school safe from phishing and ransomware.

Anyone can be a victim of a cyber-attack. But how can you avoid an attack from impacting your school?

  • Don’t trust display names. Display names can be faked. So check the sender’s email address before opening.
  • Be wary of links in emails. Hover over them (or press and hold on mobiles) to see if the link is going where you expect. If it’s not, don’t go there!
  • Check the spelling and grammar. Typos are typical in phishing emails!
  • Read the greeting. Is the email addressed to you? Or has it been sent to ‘Valued Customer’? Unless it’s been addressed to you, the chances are it’s fraudulent.
  • Review the signature. Although the email might look real, if the sender hasn’t included their contact info, then chances are it’s fake.
  • Check with the sender. Whenever you receive an email and you’re not sure if it’s genuine, check! Go and speak to the sender in person, give them a call or send them an email to the address you previously have for them. But remember, don’t just reply back to the email!
  • Keep your details private. Despite how authentic it might seem, companies should never ask for your login details or passwords. Think twice about entering your details onto websites without being sure it’s safe.

Phishing and ransomware can affect anyone. Cyber criminals will often target children, so it’s important we teach them early on how to recognise threats and avoid them. School filtering and school firewalls are just one way to protect against these ongoing threats. Check out Digital Matters – there’s free resources to help support both teachers and parents teach children about online safety.

How can we help you?

Cyber-attacks have huge impacts. And it’s important to remember that you’re the last line of defence! But there’s things we can help your school with to give you added protection.

First things first. Make sure you backup the data and files on your school’s network regularly. Then if the worst happens, you’ll be able to restore things with minimal fuss! We offer cloud Microsoft Office 365 backups from our partner Barracuda allowing a quick recovery if the worst happens. It’s flexible, scalable and cost effective (your students are free!). So you can rest easy knowing you have a good backup with quick recovery in case a ransomware or accidental deletion happens.

Need some extra storage for your backups? School cloud solutions lets you store data on the internet. It’s scalable and on-demand, so it grows as you need it to. Our cloud storage gives you all the benefits of standard cloud storage services, but with a higher level of security and privacy. This means your sensitive data is secure and not accessible to third parties.

Finally, make sure you have anti-virus software for devices on your network. Our optional anti-virus software is powered by ESET, and it runs in the background performing regular scans and checks. It identifies threats before they become a problem and removes any malware from your devices as quickly as possible.

So if you’re looking for a new school broadband provider or extra security and backup options to keep your school safe, then we can help! Just get in touch with us – we’ll talk to you about the best solutions that could work for your school.

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