Ransomware and DDoS is on the Rise: Tips for Distance Learning in 2021

Ransomware and DDoS is on the Rise: Tips for Distance Learning in 2021

The holidays have come and gone, and students returned to the virtual classroom. But according to the FBI, cyberattacks are likely to disrupt online learning in the new year. As of December 2020, the FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and MS-ISAC continue to receive reports from K-12 educational institutions about the disruptions caused by cyberthreats, primarily ransomware and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). To protect their education and digital lives, distance learners will need to stay vigilant when it comes to ransomware and DDoS attacks. Let’s dive into the impact these threats have on the K-12 education system now that more people are plugged in as a result of distance learning.

Hackers Hold Education for Ransom

Of all the attacks plaguing K-12 schools this year, ransomware has been a particularly aggressive threat. Ransomware attacks typically block access to a computer system or files until the victim pays a certain amount of money or ‘ransom.’ The FBI and the CISA issued a warning that showed a nearly 30% increase in ransomware attacks against schools. In August and September, 57% of ransomware incidents involved K-12 schools, compared to 28% of all reported ransomware incidents from January through July. And it’s unlikely that hackers will let up anytime soon. Baltimore County’s school system was recently shut down by a ransomware attack that hit all of its network systems and closed schools for several days for about 111,000 students. It wasn’t until last week that school officials could finally regain access to files they feared were lost forever, including student transcripts, first-quarter grades, and vital records for children in special education programs.

According to to ZDNet, the five most active ransomware groups targeting K-12 schools are Ryuk, Maze, Nefilim, AKO, and Sodinokibi/REvil. Furthermore, all five of these ransomware families are known to run ‘leak sites,’ where they dump data from victims who don’t pay the ransom. This creates a particularly…