Computer hackers demand $40 million ransom from school district

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A South Florida school district’s computer system was the target of hackers who earlier this month demanded a $40 million ransom to prevent personal information about students and teachers from being made public.

According to a transcript obtained by the South Florida SunSentinel, hackers with the ransomware group known as Conti engaged in an exchange with a Broward County Public Schools representative, initially demanding $40 million from the district.

“The bad news is that we hacked your network and encrypted your servers, as well as downloaded more than 1 terabyte of your personal data, including financial, contracts, databases and other documents containing (Social Security numbers) addresses (dates of birth) and other information about students and teachers,” one of the hackers said in a text message to the school district representative. “If this data is published, you will be subject to huge court and government fines. The good news is that we are businessmen. We want to receive ransom for everything that needs to be kept secret, and don’t want to ruin your reputation.”

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Then the hacker revealed the hefty price tag.

“I am … speechless,” the school district representative replied. “Surely this is a mistake? (A)re there extra (zeroes) in that number by mistake?”

The hacker offered a retort.

“According to the records, your revenue is more than ($4 billion). So it is a possible amount for you,” the hacker answered.

When the school district representative explained that the ransom could not be met, the hacker later lowered the ransom to $15 million.

“$15M is still completely out of the realm of possibility,” the school district representative wrote. “We aren’t an (sic) global company generating massive amounts of revenue that we can spend on everything. The taxpayers dollars that create our revenue gets redistributed to pay for salaries, resources, benefits, and more expenditures throughout the district. We understand that this is your career, but we need to be realistic with each other. Do you understand our position?”

But the hacker wasn’t buying it.

“Don’t play with us, your chiefs have this required…

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