BlueVoyant Report Reveals Ransomware is the Number One Cyber Threat facing Higher Education
COVID-19 has forced the higher education sector to rapidly transition to remote learning. This report delivers insights into the growing threat landscape of ransomware, credential breaches and other online threats facing universities and colleges.
NEW YORK, Feb. 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- BlueVoyant, a cybersecurity services company, today announced the findings from its Cybersecurity in Higher Education report. Using open source data and proprietary research, BlueVoyant analyzed 2702 universities across 43 countries, revealing that ransomware attacks against universities increased by 100% between 2019 and 2020, and are the number one cyber threat—with the average cost of a ransomware attack totaling $447,000. Additionally, tactics seen in other industries—such as holding organizations to ransom for larger sums of money—were also observed amongst attacks on higher education institutions.
In the wake of COVID-19, the higher education sector is experiencing unprecedented change. Not only are universities embracing, or wrestling with, a host of new technologies and teaching methods—they're also using a variety of apps, portals, and remote teaching technologies to support online or blended learning environments, which exponentially increase their vulnerability to a cybersecurity breach. As the nature of the classroom and the student experience evolves, universities face new challenges, new demands, and new risks which underscore the critical need to secure their proprietary data sources and to be properly positioned to withstand the growing threat landscape of cybersecurity breaches.
Key adversary tactics commonly deployed against education sector targets included:
Credential stuffing: whereby account credentials, typically consisting of lists of usernames and/or email addresses and the corresponding passwords, are used to gain unauthorized access to user accounts through large-scale automated login attempts.
Brute-Forcing: when an attacker systematically submits many passwords or passphrases with the hope of eventually guessing correctly. The attacker checks all possible passwords and passphrases until the correct one is found.
Dehashing/Cracking: the process of recovering passwords from data that has been stored in an unsalted hashed form. Hashes are scrambled versions of passwords that services use to enhance security practices, however, hashing is not equivalent to cryptography and many hashes can be 'cracked' or guessed.
Commenting on the research, Jim Penrose, COO, BlueVoyant said: "As the nature of teaching and the student experience changes in response to COVID-19, universities and higher education establishments face new challenges, demands and risks. The attack surface has exponentially increased as organizations in this sector move to remote learning and face unique privacy and cyber risks. This is due to the combination of the sensitive data they manage and the nature of how technology is deployed, combined with growing regulations facing this sector."
"The good news is that many of these issues can be easily rectified with the introduction of cybersecurity technologies, policies and user education. This includes multi-factor authentication (MFA) and long password policies, combined with the ability to block password reuse and simple passwords, and password screening. By combining long passwords with MFA and screening, the chance of being breached through brute force or credential stuffing attacks is considerably reduced."
In addition to the broad scope analysis, BlueVoyant has also provided insights on a smaller pool of 30 universities. This in-depth analysis looked for distinct patterns and trends to identify vulnerabilities that matched the known threat vectors and risks. Analysis showed that torrenting (a popular method of sharing large files online) and gaming were being widely used, and highlighted the scale of credentials data commonly available.
BlueVoyant is an expert-driven cybersecurity services company whose mission is to proactively defend organizations of all sizes against today's constant, sophisticated attackers, and advanced threats.
Led by CEO, Jim Rosenthal, BlueVoyant's highly skilled team includes former government cyber officials with extensive frontline experience in responding to advanced cyber threats on behalf of the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Unit 8200 and GCHQ, together with private sector experts. BlueVoyant services utilize large real-time datasets with industry leading analytics and technologies.
Founded in 2017 by Fortune 500 executives, including Executive Chairman, Tom Glocer, and former Government cyber officials, BlueVoyant is headquartered in New York City and has offices in Maryland, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Manila, Toronto, London, and Latin America.
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