Ransomware hackers targets K-12 schools, warns U.S government

United States: Federal agencies warned yesterday that criminal hackers have started attacking U.S. school districts lately and will probably continue to escalate attacks this school year.

According to the FBI alert released by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and MS-ISAC, a nonprofit organization shares information about cyber threats. Attacks “may increase as the 2022/2023 school year begins, and criminal ransomware groups are looking for opportunities for successful attacks”.

The cybersecurity group explained that School districts with weak cybersecurity capabilities and constrained resources are frequently the most vulnerable. However, school districts with robust cybersecurity programmes might still be in danger due to the frequent opportunistic targeting by cyber thieves.

The warning was issued after the largest school district in the United States, the Los Angeles Unified School District, revealed late Monday night that it had been compromised with ransomware. The district’s computer networks were compromised by hackers, who then locked up files and demanded a ransom payment. Classes weren’t cancelled at the school, but the attack caused severe disruption to the school’s services.

Schools are the primary target for ransomware hackers because they frequently attack computer networks connected to critical services, especially if they are not equipped with effective cybersecurity defences. Sometimes, as a result, schools are suddenly shuttered, leaving parents scrambling to come up with emergency plans on how to manage their children.

According to a count kept by cybersecurity company Recorded Future, at least 26 U.S. school districts were affected by ransomware in 2022, with seven attacks occurring since August.

In May 2021, the Biden administration officially declared ransomware a top priority issue after hackers shut up the computer networks of Colonial Pipeline, causing some gas shortages. Such high-profile ransomware assaults on energy infrastructure have not occurred since.

According to Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst at Emsisoft, an experienced company in neutralizing ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks still continued on school districts and health care facilities under the Department of Homeland Security.

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