Mark Belgrove, Head of Cyber Consultancy at Exponential-e

The pandemic has catalysed a sharp rise in the number of cyber-attacks. This trend is especially true as malicious actors have been looking to take advantage of the many vulnerabilities exposed by remote learning. For example, it recently come to light that laptops issued to children by the government to support their education over lockdown, had been infected with strain of malware linked to Russian servers.

This shocking news served as a wake-up call for the education sector – a reminder that it is unfortunately a top target for cyber criminals.

In fact, education organisations may have more to be concerned about than businesses. A previous study disclosed a shocking revelation - 59% of UK school and education institutions reported a security breach or attack in the preceding 12 months, compared to just 46% of businesses.

The same study also revealed the threat is much greater in higher education, with 57% of institutions having identified attacks or breaches at least once a week.

In light of this environment, it has never been more important for education institutions to ensure the cyber safety of all their staff and students.

Cybersecurity challenges are evolving

While 98% of schools are using antivirus software, and 99% are using some form of firewall protection, new, sophisticated attacks continue to emerge and prove successful, for which these traditional mitigation methods simply aren’t enough.

Phishing remains the most common form of attack. Its enduring success may be accredited to attackers’ ability to constantly update the fake ‘hooks’ used to fool victims. For example, since lockdown, cybercriminals have used malicious links hiding as video connection app links used for remote learning.

And it’s not just evolving hacking methods we need to be worried about. We’ve seen new methods to take advantage of video conferencing systems. “Zoom bombing” is when an uninvited user gains access to a video call or online class, and while this may seem harmless, it poses a serious threat to everyone’s privacy, and can be highly disruptive to the learning environment. It also runs the risk of students being exposed to indecent content, which was sadly demonstrated in the recent shocking news of a man exposing himself to a group of Year 7 pupils.

How to secure online learning

It’s evident that educational institutions need to adopt a vigorous cyber security strategy that not only takes into consideration the threats we have come to know, but even more importantly, novel threats that we are yet to witness.

The sharp rise in cyber-attacks has already encouraged new initiatives to improve the current state of the sector’s security. For example, The Department of Education (DfE) published a best practise guide for cybersecurity and remote learning. It is also now working closely with the NCSC and education institutions to continually educate on the best approaches for mitigating attacks, as well as what to do when they do occur. The DfE has also mandated that it will implement a formal plan for secure remote learning by September 2021. In the meantime, it is up to education institutions to keep students and staff informed and equipped with the right tools, so that they stay secure when working and learning from home.

In the first instance, IT teams across all levels of education can and should be implementing standard solutions to mitigate risks, for example by securing VPNs and implementing strong firewalls and internet gateways to protect IT networks from attack, unauthorised access, and malicious content.

Education institutions should be going the extra mile though, also considering mandating basic cybersecurity awareness and training for all staff and students to help implement good cybersecurity practices. More sophisticated IT solutions can also be implemented for a multi-layered approach, that secure and validate the identity of all network users, for example identity access management.

Remote learning, a new powerful tool in 2021

While 2020 may have demonstrated just how important cybersecurity is, remote learning has also shown its true potential when it comes to creating new channels for education. 

This bodes well for the future. However, as with any innovation, this also creates a more complex landscape for threats and mitigating them. Education institutions therefore need to adopt a sophisticated and multi-layered approach to security, one that is tailored to the systems, tools and materials used by students and staff.

A year on from our first lockdown, short-term security solutions have served well and protected many organisations from attack. But now is the time to consider long-term solutions that support a future of hybrid learning.

Mark Belgrove, Head of Cyber Consultancy at Exponential-e

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Lewisham College has published a new article: Lewisham College wins Double Gold Award 4 hours 12 minutes ago
Sharon Walpole added a new event 4 hours

CareermapLive: An Introduction to WorldSkills UK...

During this live webinar, you'll have the opportunity to learn about our skills competition development programme which provides colleges,...

  • Wednesday, 28 April 2021 03:30 PM
  • Online Event, UK

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page