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article imageSpringfield caught out in ransomware attack Special

By Tim Sandle     Oct 16, 2020 in Technology
The Springfield Public Schools district in Massachusetts has become the victim of a ransomware attack that has caused the closure of schools while authorities investigate the cyberattack.
The ransomware attack has led to a suspension of learning and schools the impact is considerable, given that Springfield is the third largest school district in Massachusetts with over 25,000 students, 4,500 employees, and more than sixty schools. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district opened in a remote learning model, with a planned transition to hybrid learning towards the end of October.
Soon after the initial notifications, parents and students were told that the district suffered a cyberattack and that school devices should be shut down.
The cyberattack was later confirmed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Superintendent Daniel Warwick, who announced the suspension of remote learning. This followed on from an attack on the Hartford School District in Connecticut ,was affected by a ransomware attack that postponed the first day of school during the first weeks of September 2020.
Commenting on the issue for Digital Journal is Vinay Sridhara, CTO of Balbix. Sridhara looks at the core vulnerability that runs throughout most scholastic enterprises: “Educational institutions around the world have had to make the shift to virtual learning. Unfortunately, this now makes our schools and universities top targets for ransomware attacks, as witnessed by multiple incidents -- most recently occurring to the Springfield Public School district."
He adds that: "Schools systems are an attractive target for threat actors because they store large amounts of valuable Personally Identifiable Information and often lack critical resources for proper security measures."
Here typical prevention efforts, liketraining employees to avoid becoming phishing victims or installing anti-malware software, too often fall short.
In terms of what can be done, the security researcher recommends: "To defend against these types of attacks, organizations must get ahead of these threats by using proactive technologies to help identify and mitigate the risk of ransomware before an outbreak occurs."
Furthermore, he notes that this cannot be undertaken passively: "IT staff in charge of school districts should take a proactive, risk-based approach to prevent these attacks by using solutions that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML).”
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