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Over One Million Cyber Attacks Targeted UK’s Open University in Nine Months

The Open University in the UK has been on the receiving end of more than one million cyberattack attempts between January and September this year. Parliament Street, a local think tank, disclosed the numbers following a request for Freedom of Information (FoI). According to the data, 1,191,312 malicious emails targeted the distant-learning university, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses to students of all ages. That amounts to 132,368 attacks per month if evenly spread throughout nine months. The emails included malware, spam, and phishing scams, which the higher-education institution fortunately thwarted.

University servers blocked 6,804 messages in total due to suspicion of malware and prevented 16,452 phishing attacks from reaching their targets. Chris Ross, Senior Vice President of International Sales at Barracuda Networks, complimented the university for the successful and encouraging protection against all data breaches. However, he said that The Open University and other institutions must continuously maintain and update their security measures to cope with the ever-evolving cyber threats. Ross explained that the significantly high volume of cyberattacks that targeted the university is due to its nature, as most courses take place online. He added that cybercriminals are targeting educational institutions all over the world with spear-phishing campaigns, “with over 3.5 million phishing emails hitting over 1,000 global schools and universities from June through to September of this year.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, hackers have massively increased their attacks on schools and universities as courses were held online. According to Kaspersky, Distributed denial of service (DDoS) onslaughts against educational institutions increased by three times in 2020 compared to last year. Researchers found that DDoS attacks rose by 350% between January and June, with January recording the highest spike (550%).

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