May 29 2024

Dual Ransomware Attacks Could Cripple K–12 Schools

Here are five questions you should ask about the assaults bad actors use to hit schools when they are already down.

Ransomware attacks just got even nastier. Picture this: A school is hit by ransomware, and it’s scrambling to recover. Then, it happens again, often with a different malware strain. Welcome to the world of dual ransomware attacks.

Here are five things K–12 IT professionals should understand about the questions surrounding dual ransomware attacks:

1. Why Are Bad Actors Doubling Down on Ransomware?

Dual ransomware is all about leverage and psychological pressure. Think of it as a one-two punch from a cyberthug. Attackers know that after the first hit, school targets may be down and desperate. With a second attack, the pressure to pay quickly compounds. Scaling a ransomware attack could produce a big payday for bad actors.

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2. How Can Schools Protect Themselves from Dual Ransomware?

While the basics of strong cyber hygiene still apply, the FBI emphasizes that certain tactics are especially crucial in the face of dual attacks, including network segmentation (to limit the spread of ransomware), patching (to close vulnerabilities) and least-privilege access (to give admins only the data they need to do their job).

DISCOVER: Get help strengthening your cybersecurity with managed patching services.

3. What Are Some Unique Considerations for Schools?

Dual ransomware attacks present a heightened risk due to the sensitive nature of data and services that K–12 schools handle. Attacks that halt transportation services, classroom teaching and emergency response can endanger students and undermine trust in schools. Beyond encrypting files, the FBI warns of attackers stealing data as leverage. Exposed student data is a nightmare scenario.

READ MORE: Here’s how to elevate your school’s security posture this year.

4. What Are the Hidden Costs of Ransomware Attacks?

Dual ransomware attacks can inflict lasting damage that goes far beyond the dollar figure of the ransoms. When systems grind to a halt, services stop and school operations are paralyzed, districts can suffer direct financial and systemic consequences. In a worst-case scenario, schools could face a new “data wiper” malware designed for maximum disruption, the FBI warns. These attacks can strain IT teams and crush morale across a school district.

5. What Else Does the FBI Say About Dual Ransomware Attacks?

The FBI warns that attackers have added code to known data theft tools to escape detection. Also, malware containing data wipers may sit undetected for a period of time. The agency advises schools to maintain offline data backups and encrypt them, and to remain vigilant for suspicious activity.

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