A massive cyber attack shut down the first day of virtual classes for a major Ohio school district. The FBI warned that this is probably just the beginning. Like many districts in the state, Toledo Public Schools started the school year yesterday with online classes. Toledo sits smack in the middle of Lucas County which is still at red alert status for COVID-19.
Everything seemed to be going well yesterday until it didn’t. According to a statement from the school district, “Toledo Public Schools had a great start to the 2020-21 school year. This morning, teachers connected with students, and online learning started. Staff stepped up to help parents and students with technology questions and our neighborhood food distribution began.”
Then things started to go wrong. The district was hit with what it called an “unavoidable cyberattack” just before noon.
Because of that attack, Internet connections and email were disrupted. The district said its IT staff was working hard to restore service. The district said they were not alone. “Other large urban districts across the country dealt with similar issues today. We have contacted the FBI and a local cybersecurity team to ensure our systems are secure.”
It’s not just the large districts that were hit. Several smaller Ohio school districts suffered ransomware attacks this year.
Ransomware Shuts Down Everything
Hartford Connecticut Public schools were forced to postpone the first day of both virtual and in-person classes due to a ransomware attack. Ransomware is a form of malware that sneaks onto a system and locks everything down unless you pay a ransom to the hackers.
According to Hartford officials, these hackers took out everything. “We have been informed by Metro Hartford Information Services (MHIS), our City of Hartford shared services team that manages our network infrastructure, that the ransomware virus caused an outage of critical systems and the restoration of those systems are not complete. This includes the system that communicates our transportation routes to our bus company and it is preventing our ability to operate schools on Tuesday.”
The FBI issued an alert to schools this summer warning them to be prepared for cyberattacks. “Cyber actors are likely to increase targeting of K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic because they represent an opportunistic target as more of these institutions transition to distance learning.”
According to the K-12 Cyber Incident Map, nearly 1000 cyberattacks against school districts have been reported already this year.
The problem is that while most big companies have the money to pay for a cybersecurity team, school districts do not.