Ransomware attack cripples, closes Baltimore school system

US mayors resolve not to give into ransomware demands

Highly targeted ransomware attacks have become a serious problem. With the right tool, hackers can shut down major institutions, companies, hospitals, schools, and even governments. Now, a ransomware attack has crippled the Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) system.

BCPS announced that it would be canceling classes for the time being and closing its offices. What appears to be a ransomware attack has shut down its internal systems. Officials describe the problem as “a networking issue.”

Educators have been locked out of their emails, grading systems, and other essential tools. It is unclear how long the outage will last.

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Urgent Situation

The ransomware attack was confirmed on Wednesday morning by BCPS chief of staff Mychael Dickerson on Twitter. He said, “Baltimore County Public Schools can now confirm we were the victim of a Ransomware cyber attack. This caused systemic interruption to our network information systems. Our BCPS technology team is working to address the situation. Updates as available.”

Currently, the BCPS website remains down, leaving Dickerson with no choice but to communicate on Twitter.

In light of the attack, the school system closed its offices for the day and students don’t have to attend virtual classes. “We knew it wouldn’t be a quick fix. We just don’t want people standing by thinking we’ll get back up,” Dickerson told reporters from The Baltimore Sun.

It will be interesting to see how the school system is affected and how much information was affected by the hackers. Typically, ransomware attacks are used to lock down sensitive data, forcing the target to pay a massive price to unlock it.

It is unclear whether student or employee records have been tampered with or stolen at this time. While most ransomware attacks don’t aim to steal information, no two attacks are the same.

Growing Threat

Ransomware attacks have become a significant threat in the past few years. While they have been around for much longer than that, their prevalence is steadily increasing. Vulnerable targets like schools, hospitals, and government offices are the favorites of hackers.

Hospital systems have been hit particularly hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cyberattacks on top of the current stress could be catastrophic. Indeed, at least one person was confirmed dead as the result of a September cyberattack. The German woman died in transit to another facility after the targeted hospital was rendered helpless by ransomware.

That trend can’t continue. Cybersecurity experts must come together to find ways to address the growing threat.

Unfortunately, ransomware is a perfect scheme for hackers. Since most ransoms are typically less than the price of restoring a system, many victims decide to pay the amount. That incentivizes hackers to hit new targets and wreak more havoc.

ID Ransomware estimates that U.S. businesses paid more than $1.3 billion in ransom demands in 2019. With that sort of number, hackers have plenty of incentive to continue their attacks.

It will take a creative solution to effectively address this problem.


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