Increased ransomware attacks in schools cause alarm

Schools in Michigan have been massively affected by ransomware attacks in the last few years. Since 2016, there have been over 740 cyberattacks targeting school computer systems.

School districts in Michigan have in recent times come under attack by ransomware viruses. The viruses, which mostly target teachers’ documents, operating systems running their heating, telephone and classroom technology, have been discovered in a lot of computer systems.

Ransomware attacks

This was the case in Richmond Community schools in Michigan when their IT department discovered they were under attack. The department said they had noticed something unusual in their computers and, upon further inspection, realized it was ransomware.

Superintendent Brian Walmsley said upon realizing what was happening, they shut down the portal where the virus had entered the system. They then shut down the servers to avoid the spread of the virus and turned off the internet. He continued by saying,

We tried to preserve what was still good and spent the weekend trying to figure out how big the problem was.

The district confirmed that there was no data breach of students’ data during the attack. They, however, said that the ransomware was able to access teachers’ documents and curriculum details. The virus also affected the school’s operating systems used for telephones and heating. They indicated that the ransomware had affected multiple servers but they had been able to mitigate the risks caused by the attack.

The IT department said that thanks to backup, which was on a separate building, they were able to restore all the lost data. They were also able to restore the operating systems of school computer systems affected and brought back all the school activities online again.

K-12 cybersecurity expert Doug ​Levin said this attack was just one of over 740 attacks since 2016. Levin warned that as more schools integrate computer systems, they become vulnerable to such attacks, which can destabilize the running of the schools. He indicated that proper measures have to be taken to ensure the risks involved in cases of attacks are minimized.

Levin recommended backing up school data in separate servers. This will guarantee a smooth transition and response in cases where schools or school districts are attacked.

 

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