TEACH Magazine - March/April 2021 Issue

Page 10

FEATURE

On the Frontlines: How Teachers Can Help Defend Against Ransomware By Adam Stone

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obile County School District in Alabama. Houston County Board of Education in Georgia. Guthrie Public Schools in Oklahoma. What do they all have in common? They are among the latest K-12 organizations to be hit by ransomware attacks, according to the most recent Armor Threat Intelligence Briefing. The report found that over 500 K-12 schools in the U.S. have potentially been impacted by ransomware attacks since January 2019. The pace of such attacks has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the rapid shift to remote learning has opened up new vulnerabilities. The FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency have warned K-12 schools to be on guard. In August and September of last year, 57 percent of ransomware incidents involved K-12 schools, compared to 28 percent of all reported ransomware incidents from January through July, the agencies note. “Cyber actors

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likely view schools as targets of opportunity, and these types of attacks are expected to continue through the 2020/2021 academic year,” the agencies warn. In a ransomware attack, malicious software is inserted into a system, encrypting all data and rendering the system effectively inaccessible. Attackers then demand a ransom for the key to decrypt the data. The IT shop typically is responsible for defending against such attacks. But with K-12 schools increasingly being targeted, there are steps classroom teachers can take to safeguard systems and help their schools to avoid falling prey to such incursions. THE THREAT LANDSCAPE Ransomware often finds its way onto the system when a user clicks on a malicious link in an email, a move that triggers a download and runs a malicious file or program.

March/April 2021