Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) reopened last week after closing due to a ransomware attack. This attack was particularly impactful as students are learning virtually during the COVID – 19 pandemic. Before they could reopen, the school district made sure that teachers and staff could access their equipment without it being compromised. BCPS is the 25th largest school district in the country with about 115,000 students.
Early on the district announced the attack on Twitter: “BCPS can now confirm we were the victim of a Ransomware attack that caused systemic interruption to network information systems. Our BCPS technology team is working to address the situation and we will continue to provide updates as available.”
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware attacks are generally the same; access to a system is blocked until the attacker receives payment. Most commonly, the attacker requests payment in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. It seems these days no one is immune to ransomware. Businesses, healthcare, and governments have been the recipients of ransomware attacks in recent years.
Baltimore County Government
It was believed that the Baltimore County government system was not compromised in
this attack: “We do not have any reason to believe that Baltimore County Government systems have been compromised, but the County’s Information Technology team is closely inspecting our network and all devices out of an abundance of caution, and has put in place additional security measures.”
The FBI gave a statement on the BCPS attack: “The FBI takes all cyber-crime seriously and is aware of the cyber-attack at Baltimore County Schools today. Per our usual policy, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. However, when the FBI learns about intrusions, it’s customary that we offer our assistance in these matters, especially when it has such a direct impact on our community.”
More Cybersecurity for the Win
Rob Chang, PC Matic CEO and founder made a statement on the need for more cybersecurity in the aftermath of the Baltimore City government computer system hack, which took place just last year. Chang states, “Just 18 months after the Robinhood variant of the ransomware virus was able to cripple Baltimore’s government computer systems, and on the eve of Thanksgiving 2020, Baltimore has yet again fallen victim to a ransomware attack. This attack, targeting Baltimore County Public Schools, and bringing their operations to a halt, should serve as a wake-up call for government officials. Parents, teachers, and students should demand that their local leaders prioritize cybersecurity, and put in place proactive, preventative solutions that can stop these sorts of attacks from occurring again. These solutions can prevent student and/or taxpayer data from falling into the wrong hands and can further prevent interruptions in operations due to poor cybersecurity protocols. Cybercriminals clearly have taken interest in exploiting Baltimore’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and residents will continue to be at risk until government leaders step up to the plate and deploy these common-sense solutions.”
The bottom line as Cindy Sexton, of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County stated, is, “Whoever did this, however it happened, whatever their goal was, this is affecting the students’ ability to get their instruction.”