Cyberattacks ravage Scottish universities

Scottish institutions such as the University of Strathclyde have experienced hundreds of cyberattacks in recent months.

Data security has become an issue of paramount concern for universities across the globe. The large quantities of students' sensitive personal, financial and even academic records contained on college servers have increased their visibility as a cybercrime target. Hackers are attacking organizations, including universities, with greater regularity. According to a study issued by IBM, the number of recorded data breach incidents rose 40 percent in 2012. 

Universities around the world are now vulnerable to cybercrime. The Journal Online reported that colleges in Scotland have experienced an increase in the number of cyberattacks launched against their networks. The news outlet conducted a five-month investigation of various institutions across the country and found that student data had routinely come under fire from hundreds of network breach attempts. 

For instance, the University of Strathclyde was found to receive more than 500,000 incoming emails on an average working day. Eighty-five percent of those messages were discovered to be either spam or malware. Several websites and legacy databases operated by the University of Edinburgh were compromised recently, with hackers gaining access to student and faculty personal information stored on those networks. Names, email addresses and passwords were all made public by the cybercriminals. 

At Queen Margaret University, multiple instances of malware infections had resulted in IT teams spending a significant amount of time, money and resources identifying the problem and cleaning the targeted machines. School officials told the news outlet that many times this process includes flattening and reimaging the computer, but may require a complete hard disk replacement if the infection had become pervasive. 

To protect student data while reducing IT costs, university officials could deploy system restore solutions. By establishing desired preset system configurations, IT techs could simply roll back an infected machine to a previous status before malware entered its system. These software tools could also automatically reset internal configurations after each use, ensuring that sensitive student data is not left on a computer lab machine and vulnerable to attack.

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape changes our lives, and what we can expect in the future.