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Education sector were hit hardest by cyber criminals in 2022

The UK education sector was targeted far more by ransomware than in other countries last year, thanks to targeting by the Vice Society group, according to Malwarebytes.

The security vendor’s latest findings (From April 2022 to March 2023) are based on attacks where victims opted not to pay a ransom. This means the figures could be even higher.

The education vertical accounted for 16% of attacks in the UK. In other countries, the rates were 4% in France and Germany, and 7% in the US.

Malwarebytes claimed the primary reason for this difference was down to Vice Society.

“The UK is one of Vice Society’s favourite targets, accounting for 21% of the group’s known attacks in the past 12 months, a close second to the US which accounted for 23%, and vastly more than the next country, Spain, which accounted for 8%,” Malwarebytes explained.

“Sadly, Vice Society’s disproportionate interest in the UK lands squarely on the education sector. Some 76% of Vice Society’s known attacks in the UK over the past 12 months hit the education sector, and Vice Society was responsible for 70% of known attacks on UK education institutions.”

Vice Society uses tried-and-tested tactics in its attacks, including phishing, compromised credentials and exploits for initial access and legitimate tooling like Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) for post-intrusion activity, Malwarebytes explained.

“We can only speculate about why Vice Society has such an appetite for UK schools, colleges and universities, but we know the sector is not exactly awash with money,” the vendor continued.

“In 2021, this author interviewed several people involved in providing cyber protection for UK schools. The picture in each was the same: cyber security was one responsibility among many being carried by very small numbers of IT staff who were under tremendous pressure and ill-equipped to fight off the attentions of a ransomware gang like Vice Society.”

If your business doesn’t have robust tools and systems in place to keep cyber criminals at bay, get in contact with one of our cyber security experts. They can work with you to understand how we can put the infrastructure in place to help mitigate the risk of an attack.

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