Florida Public School District Falls Prey to Ransomware

A criminal gang recently hacked into the school system in one of the largest school districts in Florida. The responsible party demanded $40 million and threatened to erase students’ files and make sensitive employee information public. 

Florida public school district falls prey to ransomware

The recent hacking attempt occurred in Broward County, and although the district believes that no information was stolen, it still highlights the importance of cybersecurity, regardless of the organization.

The district made it clear that they had not responded to the extortion attempt and were not planning to meet the payment demands. After meeting with cybersecurity professionals, the district offered to pay $500,000, but this is where the negotiations came to an end.

The hackers – known as the Conti gang – had an understanding of the district, which is the sixth-largest in the country and has over 270,000 students. Its annual budget is $4 billion, which the Contis continued to make a point of during the early negotiations.

Although the hackers did not make it off with the demanded sum, the data-locking malware used is one of the most popular types of ransomware used by hackers.

Ransomware attacks have become a common occurrence over the past few years, and it is not just Florida that has come under attack. School districts in Baltimore, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia are two other locations where hackers have locked the school’s data and demanded financial payment to unlock the information. 

The importance of cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is not something that only happens to careless internet browsers or large corporations. The plethora of attacks demonstrates this. If you work in a school, office, or from home, cybersecurity is of utmost importance regardless of who you are.

The key issue with cybersecurity breaches is the risk of sensitive information being released to the public and, although you hope that nothing will happen to this data, there is always the risk of someone malicious getting their hands on this information, using it against you, or taking on your identity. 

Disrupting education 

Besides possible identity theft, ransomware can dramatically disrupt the school day, week, and even month. As the ransomware locks the data, administrators and teachers can’t access necessary files for lessons. It also means students who are learning remotely will not have access to the curriculum. Therefore, there is a risk of falling behind and becoming overwhelmed by classes when playing catch-up.

As the majority of ransomware attacks are not reported, it is difficult to discern the full impact on students, schools, and other individuals. Attacks are often not reported due to the stigma associated with them. 

Avoiding ransomware

Schools and other organizations can work with a top IT company in Fort Myers to ensure they are protected against any ransomware attacks. Individuals can also learn a lot from these companies and receive advice on how to avoid ransom attacks and other malware threats in the future.

Often, hackers will make payment demands that, to the level-headed, seem outrageous. But, hackers will use this to their advantage. They will try to create a wedge of uncertainty and convince you of things – such as events or individuals – that are not true or do not exist. 

No matter who you are, it is vital to remain vigilant when browsing the internet and use a robust cybersecurity system to protect data.