The computer system of Broward County Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest school districts, was hacked by a criminal gang that encrypted district data. They demanded $40 million in ransom to be paid in cryptocurrency or it would erase the files and post students’ and employees’ personal information online. The hackers claimed they stole from Broward’s system Social Security numbers, birth dates and other student and employee information. There is no indication that any personal information has been stolen.The district made no payment and said it is working with cybersecurity experts “to investigate the incident and remediate affected systems,” progressing well. It negociated with ransomware criminals and offered to pay $500,000 when discussions stopped.
An epidemic of ransomware attacks has been plaguing government agencies, businesses and individuals for the past three years. Public school districts have been frequent targets of ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks disrupted learning at 1,681 schools, colleges, and universities in 2020 and at least 544 so far this year. The average ransom paid for to hacking gangs nearly tripled from $115,000 in 2019 to $312,000 in 2020, according to the cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks.