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School's Out! Ransomware Attacks Becomes a Menace for US Schools in 2019

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  • 1,039 schools have been targeted by ransomware attacks across the U.S. since January.
  • The number of affected schools grew by more than two-fold in under the last three months.

The recent report by Armor revealed that, since late October, 11 new U.S. school districts (comprised of 226 schools) have been hit by ransomware attacks.

Schools under attack in 2019

According to the report, 1,039 schools have been targeted by a ransomware attack across the U.S. since January 2019.

  • Total 72 school districts and/or educational institutions have publicly reported being a ransomware victim, 11 of which happened in less than the past three months.
  • Of the 11 school districts hit in this last attack wave, only 1 reported having paid the ransom but did not disclose the sum (Port Neches-Groves), 3 reported having refused to pay, and 7 have not revealed whether they paid the ransom or not.
  • In September's report, the firm had disclosed that over 500 U.S. schools were hit by ransomware since the beginning of the year.

It is to be noted that the number of affected schools grew by more than two-fold in under three months.

List of 11 U.S. School Districts attacked recently

  • Wood County Schools, Parkersburg, West VA
  • Port Neches-Groves Independent School District, Port Neches, TX
  • Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, Mishawaka, IN
  • Livingston New Jersey School District, Livingston, NJ.
  • Chicopee Public Schools, Chicopee, MA
  • Claremont Unified School District, Claremont, CA
  • Sycamore School District 427, DeKalb, IL
  • Maine School Administrative District #6, Buxton, ME
  • Lincoln County, Brookhaven, MS
  • San Bernardino City Unified School District, San Bernardino, CA
  • Las Cruces Public Schools, Las Cruces, NM

Impact analysis

“The attackers know that the services these organizations provide are critical to their communities, and they also know that schools and municipalities are typically more vulnerable to security attacks because of their limited budgets and lack of IT staff,” Chris Hinkley, Armor’s Head of the Threat Resistance Unit (TRU) research team, said.

  • The incident at Las Cruces Public Schools led to the full shutdown of all (roughly 30,000 district devices) from 42 schools, as well as full hard drive wipes and operating system reinstalls.
  • Attack at Louisiana's Governor John Edwards led to declaring a state of emergency in following a huge wave of ransomware attacks that targeted the state's school districts.

Another report by Emsisoft backs the claim

In a separate annual ransomware report, Emsisoft indicated that 86 universities, colleges and school districts, with operations at up to 1,224 individual schools potentially were affected in 2019.

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