BRADFORD Council's online learning network used by schools across the district has been hit by a bout of cyber attacks, with one teacher claiming daily outages have "wreaked havoc".

The Bradford Learning Network (BLN) has been attacked by hackers who have forced the system to go down on multiple occasions over the past few months.

Bradford Council admitted the "sophistication" of such threats are "ever growing".

But the local authority has worked with its partners and Action Fraud to try protect the BLN from further attacks.

The hackers have been using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to cause the system to fail.

Generally, a DDoS renders a service or system unavailable by flooding it with superfluous requests, to overload the network and prevent some, or all, legitimate requests from being fulfilled.

The incoming traffic is from many different sources, meaning blocking one source is of little use.

The fundamental aim of a DDoS is to undermine the internet infrastructure, whether to simply cause mayhem, as part of competitor sabotage or for revenge.

A Bradford teacher - who wished to remain anonymous - told the T&A that the continuous outages have caused chaos in lessons and heightened stress levels.

They said the system would be down for a sustained period and it appeared to be a city-wide problem for all schools using the BLN.

They added: "For months now Bradford schools have suffered internet outage on a daily basis which wreaks havoc on teaching, stress levels and is also a safeguarding issue when emails are not working.

"When more and more goes online - including resources - lessons become chaotic.

"It is supposedly being caused by hackers attacking the line from Virgin to Bradford Council’s schools service.

"There seems to be no end and schools are left in chaos every day.

"Thousands of students and staff are affected."

DDoS attacks dipped in 2018 after the FBI shut down 15 internet domains associated with DDoS-for-hire services.

But they increased by 151 per cent in the first half of 2020, according to CrowdStrike, an American cybersecurity technology company.

A spokesperson for Bradford Council spokesperson said: “The national education sector is receiving a higher number of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks than ever before.

"The sophistication of these threats is ever growing.

“The Bradford Learning Network (BLN) has been the victim of such attacks.

"The BLN, working with its partners and Action Fraud, has responded to this and now has a further solution in place to help mitigate the impact of such threats and potential new ones.

“Schools were kept informed about the problems.”

It comes after an investigation was launched by the Department for Education (DfE) in January, after reports emerged that some laptops handed out to vulnerable children for homeschooling were infected with malware, including in Bradford.

According to an online forum, teachers from a school in the city noticed the issue and believed it was a self-propagating network worm called "Gamarue.I".

Gamarue.I, identified by Microsoft in 2012, is a worm capable of downloading files onto a PC.

According to the tech firm, it can be installed when a spam email attachment is opened and can also copy itself to any USB flash drives connected to the computer.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “In all known cases, the malware was detected and removed at the point schools first turned the devices on.

“We take online safety and security extremely seriously and we will continue to monitor for any further reports of malware.

"Any schools that may have concerns should contact the Department for Education.”

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