Cyberattacks on US School Systems Increasing

Todd Faulk
Todd Faulk Senior Editor
Todd Faulk Todd Faulk Senior Editor

A cybersecurity company has found that the number of cyberattacks on school districts in the US more than doubled between 2022 and 2023. Cyber security firm Emisoft estimates that the number of cyberattacks increased from 45 to 108 in just one year, disrupting both large and small school districts across the country.

Disruptions include everything from school closures to delays in paying teachers, and many last from weeks to months, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2022.

In one example, Albuquerque Public Schools, the largest school system in New Mexico, suffered a ransomware attack in 2002 that disrupted the education of its 70,000 students. School officials were forced to shut down their hacked computer system, which meant they couldn’t take attendance and teachers couldn’t access grading systems.

As a result, schools throughout the system were closed for two days while administrators scrambled to bring in computer experts to rid the system of viruses and reboot it using backed-up data. Albuquerque was fairly lucky in that it didn’t have to pay the $1 million ransom to become operational again, but its cyberattack insurance increased by 300%.

Cyberattacks can take a big bite out of already strained school budgets. A hack of Atlanta Public Schools in 2017, in which hackers were able to reroute payroll checks to themselves, cost the district $300,000 in payroll losses and hiring cybersecurity experts to resolve the problem. A ransomware attack on Baltimore County Public Schools in 2020 cost that district a whopping $8.1 million in stolen payroll, lost records and lesson plans, and a whole new computer system.

School systems are particularly vulnerable to computer hackers because most districts don’t have the funds to keep dedicated cybersecurity experts on staff, they have older computer systems that hold a lot of personal data, and school officials are under intense public pressure to bring compromised systems back online, according to the School Superintendents Association.

About the Author
Todd Faulk
Todd Faulk
Senior Editor

About the Author

Todd Faulk is a Senior Editor at SafetyDetectives. He has more than 20 years of professional experience editing intelligence reports, course plans, and online articles. He's a freelancer who has produced work for a wide variety of clients, including the US Government, financial institutions, and travel and technology websites. Todd is a constant traveler, writer of his own travel blog, and avid reader of new developments in science and technology.

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