Remote learning and virtual schooling is starting up in most parts of the country.
As kids and teachers log on, they're at increased risk for cyber and ransomware attacks. The school year has barely started, and yet we're seeing an uptick in the amount of attacks hitting districts.
In Miami this week, a 16-year-old student was arrested for allegedly starting eight DDoS attacks that brought the network to a halt. The tool the teen allegedly used was a "low Orbit Ion Cannon" which is similar to what the hacker group Anonymous used ten years ago to hit credit card companies.
The Fairfax County School District in Virginia, the tenth-largest in the country, was also hit with a ransomware attack.
In North Carolina, the Haywood schools had to close for an entire week in August due to a cyber attack; it was the fifth in the state experienced in 2020. In 2019, there was just one.
In Hartford, Connecticut, the first day of in-person and remote school was delayed after a ransomware attack.
That's followed by a ransomware attack on schools in Selma, California; another one in Somerset, Massachusetts; a day of school halted in King George County in Virginia; along with the University of Utah paying $500,000 in a July ransomware attack.
And that's not to mention the fact that Zoom faced outages on the first day of class for many schools and colleges.
It makes sense that as classrooms go from physical learning to online that attacks would increase. The FBI warned in June of a surge in potential attacks, due to the combination of new technologies and the highly sensitive data that schools hold.
However, it's not an entirely new phenomenon. From October 2019-December 2019, 11 districts were hit with attacks; there was a total of at least 72 hit in all of 2019. And that's just the ones that went public.
The Miami teenager may be one of many—call it trickle down cyber crime. Tools that originated from the NSA and KGB could now be used by high schoolers who want to get out of class.
That's only possible because many schools don't have the necessary defenses.
Schools could be virtual for awhile. Even after classes return to normal, there is still a wealth of information that schools store, most of it online.
Protecting that data is essential, now more than ever.