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Schools Are a Top Target of Ransomware Attacks [Aug 2023]

Sep 27,2023 | AddOn Systems Pte Ltd

Conceptual illustration of computer with a pixelated lock on screen.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, one alarming trend has emerged: schools have become prime targets for ransomware attacks. A recent report from Education Week, authored by Lauraine Langreo and dated August 17, 2023, sheds light on the growing concern facing educational institutions worldwide.

According to the report, the findings of a  a global survey of 3,000 IT/cybersecurity leaders conducted by cybersecurity company Sophos between January and March reveal a troubling reality. A staggering 80 percent of school IT professionals reported that their schools fell victim to ransomware attacks in the past year. This represents a significant increase from the 2022 survey, where 56 percent of schools reported similar incidents.

What's even more concerning is that school IT professionals appear to be more susceptible to ransomware attacks compared to their counterparts in other industries. The survey, which gathered responses from 200 IT professionals within the K-12 education sector, highlighted the distinct vulnerability of educational institutions.

The rising prevalence of ransomware attacks in schools raises several critical questions and concerns. Let's delve deeper into this alarming trend:

The Educational Sector Under Siege

Educational institutions, from primary schools to universities, play a vital role in society by shaping the future through knowledge and learning. However, they have increasingly found themselves in the crosshairs of cybercriminals. Ransomware attacks targeting schools can have far-reaching consequences, affecting students, educators, and the broader community.

The Ransomware Threat Landscape

Ransomware attacks involve the encryption of an organization's data by cybercriminals who demand a ransom for its release. These attacks can disrupt normal operations, compromise sensitive data, and, in the case of educational institutions, jeopardize the learning experience. The perpetrators behind these attacks are often well-organized and motivated by financial gain.

Why Schools Are Vulnerable

Several factors contribute to the vulnerability of schools to ransomware attacks:

  • Limited IT Resources: Many schools operate with limited IT budgets and resources, making it challenging to invest in robust cybersecurity measures.

  • Diverse User Base: Educational institutions serve a diverse user base, including students, faculty, and staff, each with varying levels of cybersecurity awareness.

  • Critical Data: Schools store a wealth of sensitive data, including student records and financial information, making them attractive targets for ransomware operators.

The Need for Action

The escalating threat of ransomware attacks on schools underscores the urgency for proactive cybersecurity measures:

  • Education and Training: Schools must prioritize cybersecurity education and training for staff and students to promote a culture of awareness and vigilance.

  • Investment in Security: Allocating resources to enhance cybersecurity infrastructure is essential to defend against evolving threats.

  • Incident Response Plans: Developing and regularly testing incident response plans can minimize the impact of a ransomware attack and facilitate a swift recovery.

  • Collaboration: Educational institutions should collaborate with cybersecurity experts and organizations to stay updated on emerging threats and best practices.


In conclusion, the increasing prevalence of ransomware attacks on schools is a cause for concern. Educational institutions must recognize the seriousness of this threat and take proactive steps to protect their data, maintain the continuity of learning, and safeguard the future of their students. As ransomware attacks continue to evolve, the commitment to cybersecurity in education has never been more critical.

It is imperative that schools prioritize cybersecurity as an integral part of their mission to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all.