Unfortunately, we know that ransomware attacks have become incredibly common in the last few years. What is still uncommon, however, is that the target has become municipalities.
In March, we saw the city of Atlanta all but get shut down for 6 days following an attack. Around the same time, Baltimore’s 911 dispatch system was hit as well. Now, it’s been reported that Leominster Public Schools have also been hit with ransomware.
After an unfortunate attack on April 14th, Superintendent of Schools, Paula Deacon, stated that they paid the $10,000 ransom in bitcoin in order to regain their files.
“The Leominster Public Schools were the victim of a Ransomware cyber attack on Saturday, April 14, 2018,” stated Deacon in an April 27 press release. “A lock was placed on our system until a negotiated ransom was agreed upon. We paid through a bitcoin system and are now awaiting to be fully restored.”
Bitcoin is a digital currency where users can stay relatively anonymous. If you’re unfamiliar with bitcoin and what it is, you can refer our article on it by clicking here.
Ransomware is typically distributed via infected files or attachments, or can also enter through incursions and open ports. In this case, it was reported by interim police chief Michael Goldman that attackers most likely found their way into the school’s department computers through an open port, which is essentially the digital equivalent of an unlocked door.
In this case, there were a total of 25 systems that were directly affected: 13 servers, 11 desktops, and one more that has not yet been identified.
The FBI website mentioned the fact that ransomware exploits computer systems that have not been updated to the latest software releases. In the case of Leominster, it seemed to be relevant: Deacon noted that none of the computers that had Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system, were affected.
Since the attack, the Leominster School Department has implemented a new backup procedure for its systems and is taking extra precautions to prevent against another ransomware attack. As part of their new backup procedure, there are now two on-site backups and one remote backup (aka backing up to the cloud).
Aside from backups, Deacon stated that they will be updating software or replacing machines that cannot support newest software updates, implementing stronger spam filters, and daily vulnerability scans.
The most important step that Deacon mentioned is the education of district staff and students about the dangers of downloading attachments or visiting websites from unknown users.
"All it takes is for one person to open up one tab,” Deacon said. “We have on our end 900 staff and almost 6,300 students using PCs every single day. We had thousands of systems impacted.”
If you have a company or a municipality, it would be wise to ensure that your IT company is taking proper care of your security measures and is backing up your data. For a free trial of reevert, please visit this link.
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