Department of Education warns school staff, parents, and students about the dangers of cyber attacks

On October 16th, the Department of Education issued a formal warning to K-12 teachers, school staff, students and parents about the dangers of cyber attacks after over 20 schools in three different states were targeted.

“Schools have long been targets for cyber-thieves and criminals,” the statement read. “We are writing to let you know of a new threat, where the criminals are seeking to extort money from school districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records.”

“These attacks are being actively investigated by the FBI, and it is important to note that none of the threats of violence have thus far been judged to be credible,” the statement explained.

Hackers threaten to bully, physically harm or shame students

One hacking attack targeted a school in Columbia Falls, Montana, where staff and students received messages demanding $150,000 in bitcoin or else stolen school records would be published.

The threatening messages referenced Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, saying that if payment was not received “[the hackers] would splatter kids’ blood in the hallways.”

Over 30 Columbia Falls schools were forced to close down for several days while law enforcement officials conducted an investigation, revealing that the hackers were located outside of the United States.

One educational institution, Los Angeles Valley College, ended up paying $28,000 in ransom money to hackers.

The hacking group responsible for the attacks is known as “The Dark Overlord”, previously known for hacking Netflix.

The Department of Education suggested schools train staff and students alike on handling sensitive data and begin learning about best security practices.