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Top academy trust hit by £77k cyberattack

Investigation found there was little action Star Academies could have taken to identify the fraud before it happened

star academies, fraud, tauheedul, £77k, £77,000, online, cyber attack

Investigation found there was little action Star Academies could have taken to identify the fraud before it happened

A highly-praised academy trust suffered a £77,000 cyberattack which targeted its email systems, its accounts have revealed.

Star Academies, which was previously known as Tauheedul Education Trust, runs 24 academies in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, the Midlands and London.

Its latest accounts, published this week, say that in June 2018 it “suffered a sophisticated cyberattack, targeting a supplier’s and the trust’s email systems”.

A statement from Star chief executive Hamid Patel about regularity, propriety and compliance for the financial year says that an exchange of fraudulent emails led to a payment of £77,370 being paid into a fraudulent bank account.

After the issues were identified, the fraudulent bank account was frozen, and £38,153.18 was returned to Star Academies.

The trust’s insurer compensated the trust for the remaining funds, apart from a deduction for an excess on the policy.

This excess amount was then recovered through a separate policy, ensuring that the trust did not suffer any financial loss.

The accounts say that the Education and Skills Funding Agency was notified about the attack, the trust’s external auditors undertook a “thorough review”, and Star’s internal IT department completed a full audit of the IT systems to identify the breach and strengthen them to help prevent similar future attacks.

Mr Patel’s statement says: “Following a thorough investigation, the trust’s insurers were satisfied that the breach was sophisticated and that there was little action the trust could have taken to identify the fraud prior to it occurring.”

Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School last year had the highest Progress 8 score in England, and the trust was chosen by the Department for Education to take on three schools from the failed Wakefield City Academies Trust.

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