- Horry County Schools in Conway, SC, became one of the many victims of ransomware earlier this year when hackers encrypted its data and demanded payment in bitcoin to unlock it.
- According to eSchool News, 2016 has brought an unprecedented rise in encryption ransomware attacks, and in Horry County, which has 42,000 students and a one-to-one device program for fifth through 12th graders, paying about $8,000 was worth a faster return to normalcy.
- In that case, attackers found their way in through an old server in the facilities department, which can serve as a cautionary tale for other districts that use outdated — and unsupported — systems but leave them open to public access.
Colleges and universities are seen as particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks because of the quantity of personal data stored in relatively open networks. At the K-12 level, part of the vulnerability comes from a lack of funding that forces districts to continue using old equipment and operating systems. These systems no longer feature automatic updates that improve security and can provide a window into an entire district’s network.
As technology continues to become increasingly important for day-to-day instruction, few schools can afford to go dark for days at a time because of a breach. And as long as paying a ransom continues to be a better business decision than cracking elaborate encryptions, ransomware will have a place in the modern world.