Warnings over Open University cyberattacks

Warnings over Open University cyberattacks

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Warnings of increased numbers of Open University cyberattacks have hit the news after the London-based remote learning institute revealed that they have been subject to more than 1.1 million attempted cyberattacks since January 2020.

An element of these staggering figures could be put down to the coronavirus pandemic and the first national lockdown, with the second lockdown thought to potentially lead to more. With more people forced to work remotely, and many other universities now going online, the Open University has reportedly seen huge numbers of people looking to learn new skills during lockdown, or to boost their qualifications.

With the increase in online learning, as with everything else moving more online, there has been an increased number of cyberattack attempts. Particularly with the mass amounts of new devices on university servers, the Open University could be subject to many more cyberattacks given that being online is at the core of their business.

Staggering volume of Open University cyberattacks

Official data obtained via a Freedom of Information act request has reportedly revealed that there has been over 1.1 million Open University cyberattacks from January 2020 to September 2020. This number does not include the last two months.

It is understood to have been revealed that there were around 132,368 malicious email attacks and spam messages blocked each month, with the 1.1 million number being split equally each month. It has also been confirmed that 6,804 messages were blocked due potential malware, and 16,452 phishing emails were also identified.

This number of attempted Open University cyberattacks is shocking and is only predicted to get worse. Students at the Open University have been warned to keep their devices protected with sophisticated software so that any breach of a device does not equal a loss or exposure of data.

No data breached so far

Of the 1.1 million Open University cyberattacks, we understand that all messages, including spam, malware and phishing attacks, were blocked by the university’s servers and no sensitive data was accessed.

This is a great effort from the Open University and shows how adequate protection and security software can mean that data breaches are preventable. We all know that universities and higher education learning institutions are clear targets for cybercriminals as a result of the nature of the information that they hold. Not only is there a wealth of personal and sensitive data that can include medical and domestic information, and financial details, there is also research data to consider.

It is not uncommon for foreign threat actors to target universities in an effort to steal research data that could be valuable to use, copy, or exploit.

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