Cybercriminals Attacking Schools, Governments With Ransomware

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Photo by Tom Britt via Flickr

Cybercriminals are wreaking havoc across America in recent months, with the latest target being local governments and even schools.

A school in Orange County, New York, was all set to welcome students back from summer vacation on Wednesday, but a ransomware attack has delayed the start of the school year.

The Monroe-Woodbury Central School District sent out an email to parents, saying they had experienced a “cyber security threat” that impacted the district’s operations.

“We recognize that for our families this unexpected schedule change may be difficult.  The safety and security of our students is always our first priority and we believe this extra time will allow us to better prepare for a smooth first day for our students and staff,” superintendent Elsie Rodriguez said in a statement.

The district says the first day of class is now pushed back to Thursday.

“Last month’s coordinated ransomware attacks against 23 cities in Texas reflect a troubling trend for America’s cities: bad actors are addicted to the payoff,” reported City Journal.

“In the 30 years since the first ransomware attack, the digital environment has changed beyond recognition, and it will only continue to mutate—by next year, approximately 30 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and by 2025, almost 5 billion people will have access to the web,” City Journal continued.

Ransomware is malware that locks up data until the victim pays money to regain access. Established ransomware tactics involve holding a user’s data hostage for a few hundred dollars or more in Bitcoin.

NBC reported, “While a school district may sound like an strange target for a cyber-attack, it’s actually the fourth district in the tri-state to be victimized. Earlier this summer, two Long Island school districts — Rockville Center and Mineola — were attacked by hackers who locked student and staff data and demanded ransom to release it. While the Mineola district refused, Rockville Center paid the $88,000 ransom.”

In Connecticut, Wolcott schools also paid a ransom after a cyber-attack.

It is unclear if hackers demanded ransom from the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District.

“Nearly two-thirds of all publicly known ransomware attacks in the United States in 2019 have targeted state or local governments, according to a report published recently by the IT security firm Barracuda Networks, according to State Scoop.

In total, Barracuda said the the 55 attacks against state and local governments reported between January and July that it analyzed accounted for more than 60 percent of all ransomware incidents against U.S. targets. Barracuda’s research did not include the widespread ransomware attack earlier this month that hit 22 communities around Texas, though the company said that event, which officials have described as a “coordinated” effort by a single threat actor, will push the total number of attacks for 2019 to more than 70.


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