The University of Oxford have released information based around cyber-attacks, as part of a Freedom of Information request. The information released was interesting, including the revelation that during a fifteen month period, over 200 cyber-attacks were attempted on the University. This figure is relatively high, though given the technology-oriented world we live in, is of little surprise. It is important to note that all attacks were repelled, and that no sensitive data was compromised during the attacks. Read on for the full story!
A cyber attack can appear in many forms, and as seen with the range of hacks that have taken place in years gone by – can have a hugely detrimental effect on an organisation. In this case, Oxford University were affected by phishing attacks, spear phishing attacks, ransomware attacks and SQL injection attacks. The statistics used in this article concern the time period between September 2016 and December 2017. The Freedom of Information request revealed that over 200 attacks took place in this time.
Phishing attacks accounted for around 150 attacks, and there were between 25 and 50 spear phishing attacks (see the difference between the two here). Phishing and spear phishing attacks are simple to contain. However ransomware attacks can be more complex to combat – there were between 50 and 75 attempted attacks. Under 100 SQL injection attacks were attempted, with this sort of attack usually looking to expose a flaw in a system to access a database. Though again, none were successful.
The University successfully thwarted all cyber attacks, and will hope to continue this going forward. No rootkit attacks were attempted at the University, which is another positive. As part of the freedom of information request, the institution noted that ‘as with any institution’s network, frequent unauthorised attempts are made to access our services. However, we have strong security systems and almost all attacks are repulsed without network users ever being aware of them.’
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These statistics were interesting, and show the alarming nature of cyber-attacks. While some of these attacks are easy to contain, others can have more of a negative effect on an organisation. As seen with some of the high-profile data hacks in recent times, defending consumer data is crucial. Fortunately, it appears that Oxford University have strong provisions in place to ensure attacks are contained. Keeping sensitive data private is of paramount importance to Universities.