Bitcoin ransom at public schools??!!

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a story about a new, under-the-radar, and pretty staggering problem public schools across the country have been grappling with. The rise of school-based cybersecurity attacks.

When I say this is new, I mean like really picked up steam in 2017, new. And while you often hear in the news about the risk of school shootings, the fact is, even despite horrific events like the Parkland massacre, school shootings remain extremely rare occurrences. School cybersecurity attacks aren’t anymore.

Things are getting so crazy that this summer the governor of Louisiana had to declare a formal “state of emergency” because so many school computers in his state were getting crippled by a malware virus. Sometimes cybercriminals are hacking into a school, and saying they’ll only release student data in exchange for large sums of money. Sometimes they’ll steal family contact information and send threatening text messages to parents about their kids, just for the heck of it. The story opens with a small school district located in the Missouri Ozarks where computer printers in September just started mysteriously shooting out ransom letters.

The piece isn’t all bleak though, I promise. I talked with a lot of cybersecurity experts about what it would realistically take to deal with these problems, given the reality that school districts don’t have the same kinds of financial resources as say, credit card companies or the hospital industry.

You can read the story here in Democracy Journal.

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