We’ve talked at great length before about how no one is immune from a cyber attack. Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, you are vulnerable to cyber threats if you don’t take preventative measures to protect yourself.

And when we say no one is immune, we mean it. You might think some of the most well-funded or government-backed sectors have plenty of insulation. But they’re just as at-risk as anyone else. Here are four sectors vulnerable to cyber attacks and some real-world examples of when it all went wrong for them.


We’ll start with a big one, both in terms of industry size and attack notoriety. You probably remember the infamous Wannacry cyber attack on the NHS in 2017. While this was the most famous example here in the UK, it was actually a global incident that attacked government systems and private companies alike. The ransomware demanded cryptocurrency – like Bitcoin – to unlock users’ files, sometimes in vain.

For a more recent example, we only have to look to Ireland. The HSE, their equivalent of the NHS, had to cancel as much as 80% of its appointments while it dealt with the attack. In one particular story, a woman couldn’t receive treatment for her cancer as the machine used for the process was connected to the system.


According to the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, education is incredibly at risk of cyber attacks. Just look at how many educational institutions had suffered at least one cyber attack in the previous 12 months:

  • Primary schools – 41%
  • Secondary schools – 76%
  • Further education institutions – 80%

That’s a staggering amount. Just last year, we saw a number of universities fall victim to a ransomware attack. This included universities in Birmingham, York, Leeds, and London. They fell victim because of a particular software supplier that was hacked. So it really pays to consider who you work with.


Looking at the government as a whole, it happens on an all-too-regular basis globally. In France, an attack on the government’s website which handles visas left people’s personal details – including email addresses, names, dates of birth, and passport numbers – vulnerable. Even though they dealt with it swiftly, it still put people in a compromised position.

Here’s an article from one website that collates a number of recent examples, including the previously mentioned attack on Ireland’s healthcare system. Governments that fell victim include Russia’s, Ukraine’s, Japan’s, and America’s. Speaking of which…


Colonial – a major supplier of petrol and fuel in the U.S. – shut down operations across a pipeline system that runs at more than 5,500 miles after a ransomware attack. It effectively halted nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply. This was because they had to take operations offline while they dealt with the breach.

The situation isn’t much better. The UK energy sector is one of the most at-risk of cyber attacks according to one study. Considering this industry quite literally keeps the country running, it’s not one we can risk falling victim to something unavoidable. That analysis showed that while 84% of top energy suppliers had dedicated cyber security roles, only 39% were actively reviewing their policies.

This just goes to show that anyone – even those with the most backing and support – can fall victim. So what does this mean for SMEs who don’t always have that behind them? It’s why almost half of all cyber criminal targets are SMEs. Your number one priority in 2021 should be ensuring you keep yourself safe.

Do you want to make sure you’re as protected as possible? Keep cyber threats at bay and your data and business safe with Nisyst Cyber Security. To find out how we can help you, get in touch with us on 01204 706000.