Aug 12 2022

K–12 Students Are Using Cyberattacks to Shut Down Schools

A new trend in cybersecurity sees students paying for distributed denial of service attacks to overwhelm and disable district networks.

Along with a rise in ransomware attacks and phishing scams, school districts are facing a new threat: distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These cyberthreats halt districts’ ability to perform functions online by flooding the target systems with a high volume of requests simultaneously. In an age where schools rely on the internet for everything from teaching and attendance taking to managing school lunches, these shutdowns can cause major disruptions.

While in some instances the disruption is perpetrated by professional threat actors, schools are increasingly finding their own students are behind these DDoS attacks.

The U.K.’s National Crime Agency identified students as young as 9 years old behind some DDoS attacks. The same agency saw a 107 percent increase in students deploying these cyberattacks.

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How Are Students Launching DDoS Attacks on Districts?

While today’s K–12 students are digital natives, most haven’t become mastermind hackers overnight. The fact is, they don’t need to.

DDoS attacks can be purchased online, sometimes for as little as $5. Students need only enough skill to research and find an attacker willing to shut down their school’s network for the right price.

The result is a cyberattack that is hard to trace and comes from multiple locations at once.

How Can Schools Prevent DDoS Attacks?

To prevent DDoS attacks, schools need up-to-date security measures. Older cybersecurity solutions aren’t capable of keeping up with modern DDoS attacks, which are increasing in size and frequency, according to TechRepublic.

Districts must consider multilayer security strategies to properly defend against these cyberthreats. Firewalls may also help, but Amazon Web Services recommends content distribution networks or load balancers combined with restrictions on direct internet traffic to databases and other sensitive locations. Working with outside partners can help K–12 IT teams find the right security elements for their networks.

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