Cyber attackers are targeting your child’s school and it’s costing us millions
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. – If you have a website, you are at risk. You don’t have to click on a malicious link to let the criminal in. Just like at home, cyber criminals are looking for unlocked windows, a weak door, or the key you’ve hidden under a rock.
“It’s what keeps people in my position at night,” said Jason Rooks. He is the Chief Information Officer of the Parkway School District.
“It’s not when you are attacked – it is when you are attacked,” he said.
School districts are one of the biggest targets today, according to Rooks.
“Last month, two school districts in Missouri state had to close for several days due to ransomware attacks,” he said.
The Affton School District was recently hit by ransomware. Cyber criminals said they had personal information and were demanding money to return it. Affton said it didn’t pay off, but Brian Gant, associate professor of cybersecurity at Maryville University, says some districts are.
“Ransomware is currently occurring in one in four school districts. Right now, K-12, we’re talking about millions and billions of dollars being lost, ”he said.
Gant teaches students how to defend our computer systems. A video wall in their Cyber Fusion Center shows how active attacks are stopped in real time – live. Gant says we don’t have enough experts to stop the attacks.
“The void we have seen is huge,” he said. “In 2023, they expect a million-dollar gap among those with the skills to fill that gap, and higher education is one of the means we can put people in the pipeline to fill those gaps.”
Student Hunter Myles already has one job in the series where he will fight to defend our virtual boundaries.
“Nothing is safe. No company is safe, ”he said. “Large national government agencies have been attacked. National companies with security funds in the billions were attacked. It always takes an open door for these attackers to enter. “
In the classroom, he works with school districts like Parkway to improve their safety.
“And the great thing is that they don’t charge school districts for these services,” Rooks said. “We have received offers for other external vulnerability assessments that have increased over $ 30,000.”
Talking about how Maryville is helping with the assessment, Rooks said, “They are outside of our area trying to poke holes and doing what the attacker would do to get into our district.”
Maryville did not find any major security holes on the parkway, but found places for the district to hedge.
“They find out where we hide our keys – under the rock in the garden, and they suggest there’s a better place to hide it,” said Rooks.
Sean Kilfoy, director of the Cyberville Center in Maryville, says reviewing other districts and companies is creating big problems.
“Hundreds of different vulnerabilities,” he said.
A possible weak point for websites is the fields in which you enter your username and password. This can be a way inside for criminals. You can enter a hacking code in the fields to get everyone’s username and password.
“I could delete all of those usernames and passwords and create my own, or I could have all of the credentials or both and I could sell that,” Kilfoy said. “The possibilities for attackers are endless. So let’s fix that. You should have some code in your database that says you must decline this type of input. “
Most schools now have cyber insurance to save the millions an attack could cost. The deductibles on these policies are often tens of thousands.
The cities of Alton, Illinois and Berkeley, Missouri were recently attacked with ransomware and closed for days. Both cities tell me that they didn’t pay a ransom and that they got help from their cyber insurance policies. Berkeley canceled their last court night over an attack.
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