Cybersecurity Roundup: School Attacks, Kaspersky, Juniper Networks, SafeBreach
In addition to cities and towns, school districts increasingly are finding themselves under attack by malicious hackers.
Cybercriminals have attacked four school districts in Louisiana, prompting Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency. In South Carolina, the personal information of more than 24,000 current and former Greenville County School District students was exposed by a data breach.
James Slaby, Acronis‘ director of cyberprotection, tells us school districts absolutely are being targeted, as well as municipal governments in general and certain private-industry sectors, notably health care, manufacturing and financial services. The reason that public-sector institutions are an inviting target for ransomware gangsters is twofold, he said.
“One, they’re often cash-strapped and unlikely to be well-staffed in the tech and cybersecurity departments, so they’re likelier to have the kind of unpatched security vulnerabilities that many ransomware variants like to exploit,” he said. “Two, cybergangsters love these sectors for the unique pressures on them to pay up quickly. In the public sector, officials face embarrassment and voter outrage if they do not respond swiftly and effectively to restore citizen-facing services and the education of children, both of which are increasingly reliant on online applications.”
Municipal governments across the United States have garnered humiliating headlines in recent months for being caught unprepared for expensive, destructive ransomware attacks, notably Atlanta, Baltimore and several Florida cities, Slaby said.
Terry Ray, senior vice president and fellow at Imperva, tells us because school is about to start, the urgency behind getting them working well is greater than it would be at other times of the year.
“There was a WhiteHat Security statistic from 2012 that I think is still relevant, that ranked industries by their ability to timely correct vulnerabilities in the application code,” he said. “Heavily regulated industries like financial services corrected code quickly. WhiteHat found that 100% of all tested websites in educational institutions had vulnerabilities and more importantly, it took those institutions as many as 340 days on average to fix the vulnerabilities. You might call these vulnerable systems low hanging fruit to the hackers.”
George Anderson, Webroot’s director of product marketing, tells us phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated and targeted, and it only takes one click to put an entire network at risk. To mitigate future attacks, IT teams must properly audit all machines connected to their networks and the data they hold.
“Security awareness training should be implemented for staff and students from day one, ensuring that they are vigilant in scrutinizing the types of emails they receive,” he said. “This should be underpinned by cybersecurity technology such as email filtering, antivirus protection and sensible password policies. A tricky issue is that very valuable data is on individual students’ laptops/desktops as well as university servers, and the monitoring of access and the high benefit of stolen credentials pose real difficulties for the IT departments — a highly tied-down environment doesn’t match …