Schools and colleges on the Isle of Wight hit by ransomware

"Significant implications" are expected as some primary schools are forced to delay the start of next term

An bird's eye view of the west coast of the Isle of Wight

Colleges and schools on the Isle of Wight have had their data encrypted after the umbrella organisation that runs them suffered a ransomware attack

Websites for Medina College, Carisbrooke College, the Island Sixth Form, and the Isle of Wight of Education Federation have been offline for almost a week. 

The Isle of Wight of Education Federation, which runs three schools, said its IT systems were compromised between 28 and 29 July leading to fears it could result in delays to the start of the new school term in September. 

"We are working with officers from the police cyber crime unit to pursue the cyber criminals and understand the full impact of the attack," the federation said. "There are obviously some significant implications of this, which we are managing and will take measures to secure our systems even further in the future.

"We are working with the local Police and Authority, Department for Education, Cyber support and various ICT system providers to move this forward and ensure that necessary and appropriate systems are in place for the new academic year."

Ransomware attacks have plagued UK education institutions throughout the 2020/21 academic year, with similar incidents affecting universities in Newcastle, Northampton, and London. However, the attacks on the Isle of Wight occurred out of term time, which suggests the attack is targeted, according to ESET security specialist Jake Moore.  

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"It dramatically highlights the importance of having the correct and robust backup measures in place regardless of how much it costs to make it strong enough to withstand a standard attack," Moore told IT Pro. "Councils, schools, and other local government agencies often lack funding and consequently may not have the strongest network protection which makes them soft targets for those looking to exploit any weaknesses. However, due to very rarely ever paying ransom demands, it is likely that the very fact they often have weaker security means they are unintentionally caught up in a net of ransomware." 

In response to the attack, Lanesend Primary school announced that its pupils will start their new academic year three days later than planned. 

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