Experts warn of surge in DDoS attacks targeting education institutions

Pierluigi Paganini September 15, 2020

Experts warn of a surge in the DDoS attacks against education institutions and the academic industry across the world.

While the popularity of online learning is increasing due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, threat actors are launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) on education institutions and the academic industry across the world.

The DDoS attacks are causing severe issues to the targeted education institutions such as temporarily takedown of the network and online classes.

Experts from Check Point are investigating the long string of attacks across the world focusing on the technique and the motivation of the threat actors.

Most of the attacks targeted educational institutions in the U.S., with an average weekly increase of 30% between July and August in the academic sector. The number of attacks passed from 468 to 608 when compared to May and June.

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The cause of the surge were DDoS attacks, typically deployed by hacktivists. Sometimes, though, behind the disruption are students trying out dedicated tools freely available online.

“We found that the main increase came from DDos attacks (a category of malicious cyber-attacks employed to make an online service, network resource or host machine unavailable to its intended users on the Internet).” reads the analysis published by CheckPoint. “DoS/DDoS attacks are on the rise and a major cause of network downtime. Whether executed by hacktivists to draw attention to a cause, fraudsters trying to illegally obtain data or funds, or a result of geopolitical events, DDoS attacks are a destructive cyber weapon. Beyond education and research, organizations from across all sectors face such attacks daily.”

The experts reported the case of a teen hacker in Florida who launched a massive DDoS attack on the nation’s largest school districts during the first three days of virtual classes causing the interruption of the operations.

A similar situation was observed in Europe where the average number of weekly attacks per organization in the academic sector in the period July-August increased from 638 to 793 (+24%).

In Asia, experts observed threat actors targeting several types of exploits for DoS, Remote Code Execution and Information Disclosure issues

“The average weekly attacks per organization in the academic sector in July-August increased by 21% from 1322 to 1598 when compared to the previous two months.” continues the report. “The general increase in the number of attacks when you consider all sectors in Asia is only 3.5%.”

CheckPoint analysis also confirmed that several educational institutions in the U.S. were victims of ransomware attacks this year.

Below the list of best practices to elevate endpoint security:

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, education institutions)

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