The Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a stand-stop, and it has been challenging for governments to resume everyday life. Many schools have tried to continue their regular terms with online classes to facilitate the education of children while addressing coronavirus concerns. However, a bigger problem has posed many hindrances to the reopening of these schools.
A recent series of ransomware and DDoS (Denial of Service) attacks have taken place across the country, which has targeted critical systems in schools. These attacks have made essential school operations inaccessible to the administrative bodies, resulting in delays by days, weeks, and even months.
The pandemic has already disrupted the regular schedules and timelines for educational institutions, and these cyber-attacks have made them much harder to resolve.
The Clark County School District in Las Vegas reported a ransomware attack on the 27th of August, with several of their systems ceased by the assailants. According to the school district, essential data was also compromised following the attack, including former and current employee data and records.
Similarly, in Connecticut, the Hartford Public Schools (HPS) was also reportedly on the receiving end of a ransomware attack on their systems, resulting in a 1-day delay in their reopening plans. The school announced the takedown of several critical systems, such as the communications channels with the district’s bus company.
In North Carolina, the Hayward County Schools were also forced to stop their reopening plans and postpone the online classes several days. Yet another ransomware attack had left the school’s services out of order. Furthermore, the school officials also announced that the hackers managed to access sensitive data potentially belonging to employees and students.
Oklahoma’s Ponca City School System was not spared from these ransomware attacks either as they were infiltrated and, consequently, were unable to execute their online school terms.
The Causes of these Attacks
Cyber-crime has been on the rise for years, and these attacks are nothing new. However, the ongoing pandemic has dramatically affected the online climate, and many could have predicted that such hacking attempts would be targeted at educational institutions.
Ransomware and DDoS infiltrations are usually directed towards big money corporations, but the Covid-19 has provided new cybercriminals opportunities. The pandemic forced a hasty and reckless switch to online platforms to keep the school terms going, a transition that the institutions were not fully prepared for.
Schools never invested too much in IT, to begin with, and the need for online teaching has made their security systems underfunded and extremely vulnerable during these unprecedented times. Most of the schools’ staff have never approached such situations themselves and were not the least bit prepared for the onslaught of hack attacks,
The main culprits here are experienced cybercriminals who have planned these raids and had hoped to extort the institutions by forcing them to pay for their systems’ release. The other suspects are plain hooligans, inexperienced hackers looking for a challenge or a way to make money by exploiting vulnerabilities in weak security systems.
One example of such is the Miami-Dade Public School system in Florida, subject to eight DDoS attacks. Their 16-year-old student orchestrated all of them.