At least nine Croydon schools, including four large secondaries, have been affected by a malicious ransomware cyberattack this week, forcing them to shut down IT systems, email servers and even switch off their landline phone networks.
The Harris Federation, which has its head office on Wellesley Road in Croydon, operates one of the country’s biggest academy chains, with 37,000 pupils in 50 schools around London. They have confirmed that their IT systems were subject to “a particularly vicious ransomware attack” on Saturday.
Ransomware is a type of malware, carrying a digital virus with threats to publish the victim organisation’s data or perpetually block access to its IT system unless a ransom is paid.
These latest attacks have been linked to the REvil ransomware operation, which is accused of a similar attack against computer giant Acer this month when a $50million ransom was demanded, the largest known ransom to date.
Harris has not divulged what amount of money may have been demanded in their attack, in which sensitive personal data of thousands of staff and pupils may have been at risk.
After detecting the attack, the Federation disabled both its email and landline phone systems, with all phone calls being redirected to mobile phones. Pupils’ devices provided by the Harris Federation have also been disabled, in efforts to prevent the ransomware from spreading.
“This is a highly sophisticated attack that will have a significant impact on our academies but it will take time to uncover the exact details of what has or has not happened, and to resolve,” the Federation says on its website.
HThey say that they are working with the National Crime Agency, the National Cyber Security Centre and a cybersecurity firm to investigate the incident.
“We are at least the fourth multi-academy trust to have been targeted in March.”
The National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning last week of an increase in targeted ransomware attacks.
The specialist website BleepingComputer has reported a possible link to REvil, but has not been able to confirm the involvement.
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