FairFax County School System Compromised by Ransomware Hackers

Posted on September 12, 2020 at 4:19 PM

FairFax County School System Compromised by Ransomware Hackers

A recent report reveals that hackers have infiltrated the Fairfax County public schools (FCPS) and inserted ransomware on some of their systems. The spokesman of the school district made the statement yesterday.

Presently, the district serves about 190,000 students in Northern Virginia. It stated that it knew about the attack only recently, and there is an ongoing investigation on the nature and scope of the attack on the systems. Ransomeware is software used by hackers to infiltrate systems, steal valuable information, and threaten to release the stolen details if the victim does not meet their financial demands.

The level of ransomware attacks has increased tremendously in recent times, with many actors launching attacks on both private and public institutions.

FCPS investigating the incident

Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman of FCPS, has reiterated the district’s desire to work with security agencies to address the situation.

 “We are taking this matter very seriously and are working diligently to address the issue,” she said.

She also said the county has asked law enforcement agencies to help with an investigation into the issue. The protection of students’ information is a top priority for FCPS, so it’s paramount to get into the details of what happened, she concluded.

Hackers have issued proof of the attack, demand ransom

InfoSecurity Magazine reported that a hacker syndicate known as MAZE notified the public on its website that it has successfully compromised the database of the school’s district with ransomware. The ransomware group also showed proof of their hacking efforts. They uploaded a zip file data they stole from the school’s server, according to the magazine.

The district revealed that it is seriously working with the FBI and other security experts to find out the impact of the infiltration on the system. It also said that once the result of the investigation is out, it will inform the affected parties.

The district has been open about the attack

The district said it is true some cybercriminals have succeeded in infiltrating its system. The group has been linked to dozens of other ransomware attacks on different organizations all over the world.

The district sent this notification to everyone within the school system yesterday evening. The district has also vowed to restore the system as soon as possible and prosecute anyone found guilty of compromising the system.

However, when asked whether the recent breach will interrupt online learning or whether it will affect its resumption next week, the district officials did not respond.

The district also did not answer questions raised on the nature of ransom demands the hackers made.

The president of the Fairfax county federation of teachers, Tina Williams, in a statement, revealed that the union was surprised to discover that the FCPS system has been compromised.

She further pointed out that it is quite worrying for the learning community and urged FCPS to find a solution and resolve the problem as soon as possible. She also admonished the district county to take the right steps to ensure the protection of student data both now and in the future.

Recent issues cast doubts over security

This is not the first time the school is having a major cybersecurity problem this year. In April, the technology chief of the school district stepped down due to an error in the setup of the online learning program.

There was online harassment, policy breaches, and heavy technological breaches in the attempt to introduce distance learning when the coronavirus outbreak was in its initial state. There was a massive data breach, which ultimately led to the resignation of its technology chief. Following the incident, the district had to stop classes to take care of the problem.


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