And that's yet another UK education body under attack from ransomware: Servers, email, phones yanked offline

The Harris Federation learns infosec lessons the hard way

The Harris Federation, a not-for-profit charity responsible for running 50 primary and secondary academies in London and Essex, has become the latest UK education body to fall victim to ransomware.

The institution itself claimed it was "at least" the fourth multi-academy trust targeted just this month alone.

In a message to pupils and parents, the group, which is led and run by teachers, admitted that criminals had meddled with its servers.

The group revealed the attack took place on 23 March, the very same day a warning was issued by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that the UK's education sector was being targeted by crooks.

The impact of the attack was severe. Not only have servers been pulled offline, but both the telephone and email systems have been yanked, and each academy switchboard diverted to a mobile telephone. "Cyber-criminals," the academy explained, "have accessed our IT systems and encrypted, or hidden, their contents."

The break-in was discovered on 27 March, but as of yesterday the academy was still working to understand what had befallen it and what might or might not have happened. The National Crime Agency and NCSC are also involved, and the group is liaising with the Information Commissioner's Office.

And all those devices handed out to pupils? Now disabled "as a precaution."

The trust is just the latest educational establishment to discover its defences were not all they could be. The University of Northampton admitted on 17 March that its own network had been hit by criminal activities, leaving phones and networks down and students struggling to submit assignments.

How the ransomware made its way into the Harris Federation's network is unclear, although following the trend, the group described the attack as "highly sophisticated." The NCSC has highlighted phishing emails, shoddily configured remote access, and VPN vulnerabilities as common attack vectors and recommends a "defence in depth" approach to both disrupt the attack vectors and enable recovery.

In a nutshell – patch, secure, educate and, for goodness sake, make sure those offline backups are both taken and actually work.

The Register has contacted the Harris Federation for more details and will update should a response be forthcoming. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • VMware claims 'bare-metal' performance from virtualized Nvidia GPUs
    Is... is that why Broadcom wants to buy it?

    The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware's Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

    Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware's performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported "near or better than bare-metal performance" for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia's NVLink interconnect.

    NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0's 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure's team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system's four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia promises annual datacenter product updates across CPU, GPU, and DPU
    Arm one year, x86 the next, and always faster than a certain chip shop that still can't ship even one standalone GPU

    Computex Nvidia's push deeper into enterprise computing will see its practice of introducing a new GPU architecture every two years brought to its CPUs and data processing units (DPUs, aka SmartNICs).

    Speaking on the company's pre-recorded keynote released to coincide with the Computex exhibition in Taiwan this week, senior vice president for hardware engineering Brian Kelleher spoke of the company's "reputation for unmatched execution on silicon." That's language that needs to be considered in the context of Intel, an Nvidia rival, again delaying a planned entry to the discrete GPU market.

    "We will extend our execution excellence and give each of our chip architectures a two-year rhythm," Kelleher added.

    Continue reading
  • Now Amazon puts 'creepy' AI cameras in UK delivery vans
    Big Bezos is watching you

    Amazon is reportedly installing AI-powered cameras in delivery vans to keep tabs on its drivers in the UK.

    The technology was first deployed, with numerous errors that reportedly denied drivers' bonuses after malfunctions, in the US. Last year, the internet giant produced a corporate video detailing how the cameras monitor drivers' driving behavior for safety reasons. The same system is now apparently being rolled out to vehicles in the UK. 

    Multiple camera lenses are placed under the front mirror. One is directed at the person behind the wheel, one is facing the road, and two are located on either side to provide a wider view. The cameras are monitored by software built by Netradyne, a computer-vision startup focused on driver safety. This code uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out what's going on in and around the vehicle.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022