Cyber incident targets Milton Keynes College Group systems

Between 8th & 12th January 2022 Milton Keynes College Group was subjected to a sophisticated cyber-attack designed to copy data and access College systems. 

Due to the robust nature of our system security and vigilant IT team, the attack was recognised at the earliest opportunity and access to systems restricted. 

Whilst some data was copied from our network, initial investigations, with support from National Cyber Crime Unit and sector experts, meant that the data was quickly locked at source.

What was the impact of this cyber incident? 

Given the serious nature of the attack, we were forced to take immediate action to reduce connectivity and restrict access to systems. Unfortunately, this meant that staff and students faced disruption for a number of days as we have slowly brought systems back online. We have been working with students to ensure that this disruption does not negatively impact their learning and all systems are now restored. 

This happened in early January – why are you only telling me now? 

Throughout this incident, MK College Group has been following the advice of national cyber security and sector experts. Highlighting that we were aware of the attack, had taken measures to secure our systems and had removed access to the copied data would have risked further attacks and associated disruption.

Time was also needed to fully understand what data had been accessed and removed from our system. As soon as the investigation, carried out by experts, had reached an appropriate stage we have endeavoured to communicate with you at the earliest opportunity in a clear and transparent way.

What action have we taken

Since we became aware of this incident, we have been working with specialists to bolster our systems and increase our resilience. Initial analysis suggests a sophisticated and focused attack rather than any inherent weakness in our systems whilst our ability to quickly detect and shut down access undoubtedly prevented a more substantial loss of data. That said, there are always lessons to be learned and MK College Group will continue working with specialists to reduce risk.

What should I do – am I at risk? 

Early indications show that the main purpose of the attack was to target MK College systems. Whilst data was copied, it was predominantly company financial and commercial data.

Specifically, in terms of personal data, work contact details, usernames, passwords, bank account numbers and sort codes were within the data copied from our systems. As bank account numbers and sort codes on their own can only be used to pay money into an account, the risk to your bank account is therefore incredibly low. However, we would recommend you keep an eye on bank statements for any suspicious activity and contact your bank immediately should you have any concerns.

We have already reset passwords across the MK College Group and would encourage you to change passwords where you have used the same passwords on multiple platforms. As ever, please continue to be vigilant for scams and phishing emails.  Advice for good password selection is available here.

What next?  

Should our ongoing investigations reveal individuals who have had personal data compromised, that places them at risk, we will contact them directly with information on the data impacted and what to do next. 

I have questions, who can I contact to find out more? 

Alex Warner, Principal remains the point of contact for general information requests. Alex Warner can be contacted via email: Alex.Warner@mkcollege.ac.uk 

Jason Mansell, Senior Operations Director is the MK College Group Data Protection Officer and can be contacted via email: dpo@mkcollege.ac.uk  

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