Ransomware has traditionally been a practice where cybercriminals encrypt data and demand ransom in exchange for a decryption key. More recently, a growing number of these bad actors threaten to make this information public if they do not get paid. This shift in the practice of ransomware has increased the "attractiveness" of K-12 schools for cyber criminals. Information about children is among the most highly protected data there is, making it more likely ransoms will be paid to keep it private. For this and other reasons, K-12 schools are seeing an increase in ransomware activity. In 2021, there were at least 62 reported ransomware cases as compared to only 11 in 2018. 2021 also saw ransomware as the most common cyber incident for K-12 schools for the first time ever.
What Gets Compromised in a Ransomware Attack?
An incident in 2020 involving Fairfax County, VA Public Schools resulted in employee social security numbers being posted online. Hackers targeting a school district in Allen, Texas emailed parents with threats to expose their childs' personal information if educators did not pay a ransom. Showing the full swing of ransomware impacts from the serious to the mundane, a 2022 attack on the Griggsville-Perry School District in Indiana had many records compromised and leaked including a detention slip from December 2014 for a student who would not stop interrupting his health class. This shows the breadth of access that hackers had to documents and has led many schools to reexamine their file retention policy to reduce the amount of data accessible to bad actors. Continue reading