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Universities strengthen cyber security

07 November 2019

THE PROPORTION of UK universities reaching the government-backed standard for cyber security has almost trebled in a year, new figures have revealed.

The figures show an increase from 14% to 40% over the past year in UK universities achieving Cyber Essentials, a certification scheme run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ.

Cyber Essentials is the NCSC’s government-backed, industry-supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common online threats, such as phishing campaigns. Organisations must achieve certain industry-approved security requirements to gain certification.

The rise in universities gaining Cyber Essentials was revealed in the latest annual Cyber Security Posture Survey from JISC, an organisation which works to highlight the importance and potential of digital technologies for UK education and research.

JISC’s survey, which provides key insights into how UK universities and colleges are approaching cyber security, also found:

  • almost a third of colleges have gained the Cyber Essentials certificate;
  • nearly three-quarters of higher educational providers have now recruited staff for dedicated cyber security roles;
  • 66% of providers have appointed a strategic cyber security lead.

Sarah Lyons, NCSC deputy director for economy and society, said, "It is extremely encouraging to see such a significant rise in universities and colleges investing in their cyber security. 

"Given the NCSC assessment that it is a realistic possibility that the cyber threats facing universities will increase, we will continue to work closely with the education sector to enable more institutions to achieve this industry recognised standard."

The NCSC works closely with the academic sector to improve its security practices and to help protect education establishments from cyber threats.

Earlier this year the organisation released its first threat assessment for universities, which highlighted the kinds of threats universities face and the steps they can take to counter them.

In the NCSC’s 2019 Annual Review, academia appeared second in the list of top five sectors which received the most support from the organisation’s Incident Management team.