Last year ransomware attacks cost schools more than $3.5 billion

Several high-profile ransomware attacks as of last year Colonial Pipeline Attack By Darkside, the focus is on corporations. But the bad actors behind those digital attacks don’t limit themselves to the business world. They are also seen targeting schools.

In 2021, 67 different ransomware According to a study by security firm Comparitech, the attacks affected 954 schools and colleges, potentially affecting the data of more than 950,000 students. Varying amounts – from $100,000 to $40 million – were sought from schools to regain control of their systems. Some schools reported whether they paid the ransom, but at least one school paid $547,000, according to Comparitech. Overall, the firm estimates, the events cost schools. Over $3.5 billion in downtime,

When the cost of data recovery, system upgrade, and computer restore is added up, the cost becomes even higher. Some schools were unable to recover.

Lincoln College, a private, predominantly black university in Illinois that has been around for 157 years, closed permanently last month, citing cyberattacks and the pandemic as the cause. The school had record enrollment in 2019, but the pandemic affected campus life and limited the school’s ability to raise money. Then, in December, a ransomware attack “failed penetration activities and disrupted access to all institutional data, creating a fuzzy picture of a decline in 2022 enrollment projections,” the school said.

Systems needed for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were disabled after the attack—and when the school paid the hackers ransom fees, the systems didn’t come back fully online until March of this year. By then it was too late. The significant lack of enrollment put the school in a hole it could not get out of.

“Lincoln College has been serving students around the world for more than 157 years,” wrote college president David Gerlach, in a statement, “The loss of history, career, and a community of students and alumni is enormous.”

gathering accurate information on ransomware attack is challenging. Identity Theft Resource Center Note that reporting data breaches is inconsistent at best. About half of the 367 cyber attacks that occurred in the first quarter of 2022 lacked information about the cause of the breach (such as ransomware or phishing). Ransom-paying companies are particularly reluctant to report violations.

Based on available data, Comparitech estimates that there have been 270 different ransomware attacks on educational institutions between January 2018 and mid-May 2022. This has a potential impact on over 30 lakh students and around 4,300 schools and colleges.

The hackers have collected at least $2.64 million in ransom payments from schools at the time, with the average payment being $239,733. The company estimates that the additional downtime cost for attacks in that time frame, however, adds up to about $20 billion.

California, New York and Texas have had the most attacks since 2018, with more than 20 attacks each. Illinois had reported 13 and Pennsylvania had observed 12.

Ransomware peaked in the education sector in 2019, when attacks increased to 96 (from just 10 a year ago). Their numbers have dwindled slightly since then, but the attackers are focusing on big-budget school districts, such as Broward County in Florida, where hackers sought $40 million. (The school district offered $500,000 as a counteroffer. The group behind the ransomware reduced its demand to $10 million, but ultimately left the school’s data—about 26,000 files—online.)

The good news is that so far 2022 has been a relatively light year for ransomware attacks on schools—and those that have been targeted are increasingly coming back online.

“While hackers are becoming more targeted in their approach,” Comparitech wrote in its report, “statistics for less downtime suggest that schools are more ready You are better able to resist these attacks and restore your system from backup or mitigate the effects of the attacks.”

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