American School Districts Losing Money to School Hacks
Credit card and social security numbers are not the only private information targeted by hackers. It turns out that the personal data of thousands of American students is also vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Cyber attacks on American school districts have significantly increased this year. More than three dozen schools been attacked by hackers since the beginning of 2017. Hackers have been stealing student information including names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, and even academic records.
Hackers have been asking for ransom in exchange for not releasing the students’ private information on public domains. In some cases, the hackers have threatened to leak the stolen information to child predators. In the worst cases, the hackers have even threatened to murder children if the ransom is not released. Most of these attacks in the United States have been perpetrated from outside of the country.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has urged schools to not give in to hackers’ demands, and instead spend money on putting up better cybersecurity firewalls. The FBI warns that paying ransom will encourage further school hacks. The agency suggests that fighting off the hackers is the best way to discourage future attacks.
The FBI warns that hackers can use the students’ stolen identities to commit crimes, such as fraud, or sell them on the black market.
School Districts Not Doing Enough to Thwart School Hacks
At least a few school districts have not been paying heed to the FBI’s advice, and have continued to pay the ransoms. According to some school officials, not paying the hackers means losing all of their sensitive information.
In addition to stealing student information, hackers have been taking school employees’ paychecks from digital payroll systems. Affected schools have had to pay thousands of dollars to reimburse the victims. Just last month, Atlanta Public Schools had to reimburse 27 of its employees for $56,000 that was stolen from their payroll system.
Cases of school hacks have been increasing as more American school districts have adopted new technologies. The districts have not been doing enough to protect their systems against attacks. In fact, some of the affected districts are finding it cheaper to pay the hackers than to introduce expensive cybersecurity measures.
Districts in California and Georgia have particularly been on the hackers’ hit lists. As I reported earlier, these states remain the most vulnerable ones in the United States to identity theft and fraud.
“Hackers Target Nation’s Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2017.