The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK has warned that pre-schools, nurseries and childminders are increasingly an “appealing target” for cyber criminals and is encouraging them to bolster their defences.

The early years providers are increasingly relying on technology to operate and are therefore a target for cyber criminals due to the sensitive information they hold and payments they handle, according to the cyber security service.

The concern has prompted NCSC to publish new guidelines this week for practitioners to follow.

“We know that incidents affecting the education sector are increasingly common, so it’s vital that all providers know how to secure their devices and sensitive data,” said Sarah Lyons, the NCSC’s deputy director for economy and society engagement.

“As many early years’ practitioners work on their own without dedicated IT support, this guidance sets out the practical first steps they can take to protect themselves from cyber incidents.

“By following our advice, they’ll not only be keeping their businesses safe, but will also be keeping those in their care and families safe too.” 

The NCSC’s key advice to practitioners includes:

  • Identifying what data you cannot operate without or are legally obliged to safeguard, and creating a proper back-up;
  • Switching on password protection, using strong passwords and password managers, and setting up two-factor authentication, and communicating safely with families;
  • Turning on anti-virus software and keeping IT devices up to date to protect your devices from viruses and malware;
  • Tips on how to spot suspect messages (such as phishing attacks), unusual requests, report them and what to do if you have already responded.

PrivSec Global, a live streaming event, takes place on 23-25 March featuring more than 200 speakers and 64 sessions on privacy, data protection and cyber-security.