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Nova Education Trust, which runs Newark Academy, Suthers School and Toot Hill School, says it will come off stronger after being hit by cyber attack

An education trust that runs several Advertiser area schools said it is confident it will come off stronger after it was hit by a cyber attack.

The Nova Education Trust — which runs Newark Academy, Suthers School, Fernwood, and Toot Hill School, Bingham — said since the unsuccessful but 'sophisticated' attack on March 3, its IT team had worked tirelessly to ensure cyber safety.

This involved erasing and re-imaging every computer and device across all 15 of the trust's schools. Access to email, school websites and Microsoft Teams was restored within 48 hours of the attack and online learning was resumed.

Newark Academy. (4147390)
Newark Academy. (4147390)

The trust said internal investigations determined there was nothing to suggest personal data was breached. However, the trust’s IT infrastructure was targeted and files were encrypted.

The central IT team in conjunction with external IT experts are continuing their work to determine the extent of what data has been affected. This process is likely to take several weeks.

Nova said it has always taken IT security extremely seriously and had various preventative measures in place at the time of this attack in line with the expected security practices and related technology for the education sector.

It added: "Unfortunately, like many organisations, the trust was subjected to a sophisticated, high-tech criminal attack which resulted in access to its IT systems despite these measures.

"Since the attack, the trust has taken various additional steps to further strengthen the security of its IT infrastructure and will continue to do everything possible to ensure the ongoing resilience of its systems to prevent this type of incident from occurring again.

"We are confident that we will emerge from this challenge stronger, and several external parties (education trusts, HE and businesses) have been in touch asking us to share our experience of this incident.

"We are keen, when the time is right, to share our experiences and learning outside and within the sector. The incident was reported to the Department for Education and the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the trust worked with the National Cyber Security Centre and additional security professionals to help resolve the matter.

"On Wednesday, March 10, we welcomed some of our secondary students back into school, with the remainder of students returning to the classroom on Thursday, March 11, after prioritising the covid-19 lateral flow testing programmes.

"The trust has been overwhelmed by the positive messages and offers of support and expertise from fellow Multi Academy Trusts (both locally and nationally), as well as the DfE, the ESFA and the local authorities.

"Nova Education Trust would like to reiterate its sincere thanks to all staff, students and parents for their patience and support during this time."

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