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GCSE coursework lost in ransomware attack

Hackers demand cash for return of GCSE coursework after cyber attack as police launch investigation at school

GCSE work stolen in ransomware attack

Hackers demand cash for return of GCSE coursework after cyber attack as police launch investigation at school

Hackers have demanded a ransom for the return of GCSE coursework which they encrypted in a cyber attack on a school in Dorset.

Sir John Colfox Academy, in Bridport, was the target of hackers, believed to be from China, after a member of staff mistakenly opened an email and infected the school’s entire computer network.

Neither police nor the school have said how much money was demanded for the return of the coursework, but police say no money has been paid.

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Meanwhile, the DfE said it was not aware of any other schools being affected and that it was working the National Cyber Security Centre to understand more about cyber attacks in the education sector.

In a letter to parents, as reported in The Times, Sir John Colfox headteacher David Herbert said the email had originated in China before being forwarded from a server in Germany, and that coursework held on the school's network had been encrypted and could not be accessed.

He said in the letter: "It has caused significant issues to our school network and our ICT team have been working with external advisors – including a specialist police unit – to try and rectify the problems."

The most significant issue was over GCSE coursework, he wrote.

"Year 11 students' GCSE coursework in product design and food preparation and nutrition that is saved on the school network – where it has to be saved – is currently lost.

"We are liaising with the relevant exam boards about this specific issue.

"The police technical expert was very familiar with the particular server that it came from and it is part of a significant international operation,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Dorset Police told Tes: “We received a report on Thursday 28 February 2019 of a ransomware attack at Sir John Colfox Academy in Bridport. No money has been exchanged. A full investigation is underway into the circumstances and Dorset Police’s Cyber Crime Unit is supporting and providing advice to the school.”

When contacted by Tes, the school refused to comment. The DfE’s data protection toolkit for schools can be found here.

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