Schools and public bodies in Jersey can now benefit from two free cyber security services that will help protect them from potential harm online.
The frequency of phishing attacks in education – including a successful cyber attack in a Jersey school and ransomware incidents which led to two UK schools temporarily closing, and caused the permanent closure of a 150 year old college in the US this month – has alerted authorities to the reality that such a vital service needs help and support.
In March last year an attack on a London school operator left 40,000 pupils without email, and in June two Kent primary and secondary schools had all their data encrypted by hackers leaving them unable to open. Previous attacks have also targeted school exam files and pupil’s coursework, and the ‘Blackbaud’ attack in 2020 took down 10 universities across the UK, USA and Canada. This month, 150 year old Lincoln College in the UK shut it’s doors permanently after a ransomware attack.
As a result, CERT.JE can announce that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have widened the availability of their Web Check and Mail Check security tools to include all Jersey schools.
Web Check helps you recognise and rectify security issues in your website, checking your websites for common web vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
The NCSC said “Web Check tells you what you need to worry about, when you need to worry about it and what you need to do about it.”
Mail Check aids email security configuration and reporting, helping domain owners identify, understand, and prevent abuse of their email domains.
“Mail Check makes it harder for attackers to spoof you by helping you to set up and maintain good Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) configurations,” said Kerr M, the lead for the NCSC’s school’s engagement.
“Mail Check requires a little more input and an ongoing commitment from school admin (or suppliers) to set up. Thereafter, Mail Check will generate email notifications to alert you if there have been changes in your email security.”
Both services are part of the NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence (ACD) suite which aims to ‘Protect the majority of people in the UK from the majority of the harm caused by the majority of the cyber attacks the majority of the time.’ These tolls are intended to provide protection at scale and tackle the high-volume commodity attacks that affect people’s everyday lives, rather than the highly sophisticated and targeted attacks, which the NCSC respond to differently. All ACD tools are free at the point of use and should be utilised to address a specific cyber security risk for organisations.
Matt Palmer, director of CERT.JE said “It is excellent news that schools are now able to benefit from these free services. Cyber security is difficult, and the NCSC’s tools are free and effective. There is no reason why schools in Jersey shouldn’t be using them and we would encourage them to do so.
“Schools and education providers at all levels hold significant amounts of sensitive personal information, and as we saw with COVID-19 any disruption to education comes at a high cost to our young people. Good cyber security is essential and CERT.JE is here to help.
“We also encourage all public bodies to ensure their mail servers are configured securely and that websites, including parent portals, are up to date and patched.”
Alexa Munn, Head of Governance for Children, Young People, Education & Skills (CYPES), said: “Cyber security incidents are on the rise particularly within schools and education settings. CYPES would like to actively support the use of such tools in schools and should any school require additional support in using or understanding how they can be beneficial to the school to contact the CYPES Governance Team.”
Dave Roworth, Senior Advisor, Digital & Innovation commented: ‘It is encouraging to see these online tools being shared with our schools and young people, not only is it helping to protect information systems, but it also raises the profile of Cyber Security among students, and will encourage some to consider a career in this specialist skills sector.”
If schools or other public bodies in Jersey would like help to access NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence services, or need help advice and support on cyber security issues they should contact CERT.JE at firstname.lastname@example.org.