Students Staff
University of Essex

September 24, 2020

Standing up to cyber crime

Our Director of Innovation and Technology, Jots Sehmbi provides an update on how we’re standing up to cyber-crime and actions we can all take to protect the University.

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last few months the Higher Education sector has been increasingly targeted by cyber threats, with two recent prominent cyber-attacks widely reported in the media, impacting both Northumbria and Newcastle universities. In one case, this resulted in the complete cessation of university operations, with students being unable to register for the new academic year.  These two cyber-attacks were “ransomware” attacks, which involve significant amounts of institutional data being held encrypted and held to “ransom” until a payment is made to cyber criminals to release the data.

As we all continue to work in an increasingly remote way across the University, the security and protection of the University’s information and data remains a key focus for ITS.  Over the last six months, ITS has been enhancing the University’s defences by implementing technical security measures in order to protect the University against cyber-attacks.  To ensure we are fully safeguarded against such attacks, we need your help.

The majority of successful cyber security incidents are triggered by inadvertent human actions, e.g.  clicking on a malicious web link in an email that seems authentic, opening a file attachment that purports to be genuine, or providing your Essex username and password to a third party by accident.

Humans are the greatest first line of defence against potential cyber-attacks. Therefore, we will be launching a refreshed information and cyber security training and awareness campaign called Stand Up To Cyber Crime for the new academic year. This will include periodic refresher training for all staff, a new training programme for students,  offering new guidance on how to remain safe when using the University’s IT services securely on and off campus.

From today all emails that come from outside the University which are delivered to your Essex email address will have a banner embedded, to remind staff that they should only open attachments from trusted and known sources, and to be extra vigilant with any embedded web links in emails. We are implementing this following the recommendations from the wider cyber security advisory bodies (NCSC and JISC) to the academic sector on protecting against cyber threats.

We can all take immediate simple steps to secure our information and data, such as not sharing your password with anyone, knowing how to spot a phishing email and understanding how to share information securely.  Additionally, the Information Champions network has members in every department and section to advise and guide on the secure use of information and data.

Please remember ITS teams will never ask you to share your password via email (or other channels), so please be cautious if you ever receive any emails of this nature and contact the IT Helpdesk for advice.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me.

Jots Sehmbi

Director of Innovation and Technology

September 23, 2020

Protecting our community

Dear students,

We are looking forward to welcoming you at the start of the new academic year and will be updating you regularly on how we are continuing to respond to the pandemic.

The whole Essex community has been working together during the summer to prepare for the new year and ensure you are as safe as possible when you join us. I wanted to write to you now to emphasise how important it is for you all to adhere to the rules and expectations of behaviour on campus and uphold our COVID-19 health and safety guidance.

Staying safe on campus is not just important for your own health and wellbeing, but also for that of your fellow students, University staff, your families and friends and our wider local community.

It is with everyone’s safety in mind that you need to follow these simple rules:

  • Obey the ‘rule of six’: it is against the law to meet in a group of more than five other people from outside your household;
  • You must wear a face covering in all buildings where there is an instruction to do so and in all public areas. You must wear a face covering in all lectures and teaching events;
  • Wash your hands regularly and for more than 20 seconds;
  • Maintain social distancing –the ideal is to stay 2m apart from others.

We take the health and safety of our University community seriously and any breaches of our COVID-19 guidelines will be dealt with by our Student Conduct team and our Security team. Our Code of Student Conduct allows the University to take firm action against anyone found or reported to be putting others’ safety at risk by breaching our COVID-19 requirements.

Do not risk your university career or the health of your friends, family or our University community. Follow the guidelines and do your bit to keep Essex safe and free from COVID-19.

Thank you for your support.

Richard Stock

Academic Registrar