According to a survey released on Wednesday, ransomware attacks on educational institutions, including those in higher and lower education, are on the rise, with 60% of them experiencing assaults in 2021 compared to 44% in 2020.
Sophos, a cybersecurity company, found that education institutions had the longest recovery times (7% took at least three months), almost twice as long as the average for other sectors, and the highest data encryption rates (73%) compared to other sectors (65%) overall (4 per cent).
"Schools are among those being hit the hardest by ransomware. They're prime targets for attackers because of their overall lack of strong cybersecurity defenses and the goldmine of personal data they hold," Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos, said in a statement.
"Education institutions are less likely than others to detect in-progress attacks, which naturally lead to higher attack success and encryption rates," added Wisniewski, in the report that polled 5,600 IT professionals, including 320 lower education respondents and 410 high education respondents, in mid-sized organizations across 31 countries.
According to the poll, compared to other sectors, educational institutions have the highest propensity to suffer operational and financial consequences from ransomware attacks.
At least 97% of respondents from higher education and 94% from lower education believe that assaults have affected their ability to conduct business, and 96% of respondents from higher education and 92% from lower education in the private sector also mention business and income loss.
Only 2% of educational institutions (down from 4% in 2020) were able to recover all of their encrypted data after paying a ransom; on average, schools were able to recover 62% of encrypted data after paying a ransom (down from 68 per cent in 2020).
Higher education institutions in particular report the longest ransomware recovery times: 9% report it takes three to six months, compared to 40% who say it takes at least one month (20% for other sectors).