The Price of Online School


With online school a reality for most school districts in the country, the risk of cyber attacks has only increased

So much of daily life has been upended by the pandemic. School has been one of the only facets of normal life that is able to continue remotely. With so many school districts conducting business entirely online, many teachers, students, and staff have assumed the risk. 

Due to the way school districts around the country had to adapt to the internet in order to conduct remote learning, there was not much time to update their cybersecurity features. Cyber attackers have narrowed their focus on capitalizing on the vulnerability of school districts.  

In November, the Baltimore County Public School system was the subject of a vicious ransomware attack that left the system down for several days. At the beginning of the month, an Alabama school district, Huntsville City Schools, was also the victim of a breach in cybersecurity. 

According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, ransomware is a type of malicious software that hackers use to deny access to the computer system of a business or organization until a certain amount of ransom is paid. With so many school systems dependent on remote learning, the risk of a ransomware attack has only increased. 

Most school districts do not have adequate cybersecurity measures that would prevent these ransomware attacks. School districts must fortify their cyber protections, or they run the risk of falling prey to these malicious cyber attacks. 

Without adequate protection, the private information of many students, teachers, and staff are vulnerable. Everything from personal phone numbers to addresses to social security numbers have been stolen from countless ransomware victims. 

In addition to having personal information compromised, school districts such as Huntsville City Schools and the Baltimore County Public School system were forced to close school for a time to protect users’ information. 

While school officials say there was no evidence of personal information being stolen in the ransomware attacks, cybersecurity experts aren’t as certain. According to an interview conducted by the Baltimore Sun with cybersecurity expert Brett Callow, there have been many instances where officials “publicly say they have no evidence of data theft, only to be proven wrong later.”

Students who were the victims of these cyber attacks didn’t seem to mind as much about the closures. Many students voiced their thoughts on school being shut down due to the two ransomware attacks on the social media platform TikTok, such as user @jacksonmillerofficial

For now, it seems that as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the United States, cyber attackers will continue to wreak havoc on school districts. Unless school districts ramp up their cyber security measures, they may just have to pay the price.