Schools must be cyber ready in case a second wave of Covid-19 cases forces more closures.

That’s the warning from Anthony Hughes the Henshalls Group, who said the constantly changing Coronavirus guidelines were proving challenging for everyone.

“The Government has stressed that they hope to keep schools open with more closures a last resort, but it’s clear that home schooling or a combination of home and in-school learning may well be necessary. This means schools will need to prioritise strong cyber security practices and effective cyber insurance to keep their systems, pupils and staff safe.”

Mr Hughes said even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the frequency and threat of “phishing” emails was on the rise.

“In the education sector, this kind of cyber attack was mainly about attempting to impersonate school payment systems and often involved directing parents to fraudulent websites.

“Schools and colleges need to ensure all staff have cyber security training and encourage them to think very carefully before opening a link or downloading an attachment.

“It’s important to inform parents too about the kinds of communication and information they can expect to receive from the school, and the format it will appear in.”

But Mr Hughes said not all cyber security threats were external. “You may find that a computer or other item of equipment connected to the school network is already compromised – so it’s important to carry out an audit of all the equipment that will have access to your network.

“Check all user accounts to make sure they don’t have unnecessary access to sensitive data or systems – if a device or account is compromised, limiting access can minimise the amount of data or information that’s vulnerable to the attackers.

“Important and sensitive data should always be regularly backed up – ideally to multiple locations with at least one of them off site – and this is where a cloud server comes into its own.

“Schools and colleges have already worked so hard to get pupils and students back into the classroom, but it’s vital that cyber security is not neglected as the next stage of the pandemic arrives.”