Vicious cyber-attack on school district

Over 15,000 elementary and high school students were impacted by one horrific cyber-attack last week.

An entire school district in Flathead Valley, Montana was the victim of a vicious attack starting on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. An initial threat was sent to a high school and then additional schools in the school district. By Saturday, the hacker was sending threatening emails and text messages to students, parents, and teachers.

Flathead Valley County, located in northwest Montana, has a population of about 98,000. The school district took the initial threats very seriously and alerted law enforcement. The threats to students and parents included graphic death threats against students. The school district canceled school on Thursday and Friday. They also canceled extracurricular activities scheduled for the weekend. More than 30 public and private schools were impacted. By Monday, it was determined safe for teachers to return to school and classes resumed on Tuesday.

According to the ransom letter the Flathead Valley Sheriff released on Facebook, the hacker(s) go by the name of The Dark Overlord. It is believed that the criminal hacked into the school district computer network and stolen personal data on students, parents, teachers, and staff. It is thought that the criminal is located outside the US.

It is believed this same hacker is also attacking health care organizations, extorting money. The Dark Overlord is the name used by the hacker of the Netflix ransom attack in May, 2017. In that threat, the criminal threatened Netflix with a prelease of Orange Is the New Black show.

What Small Business Can Do

Small businesses have a unique opportunity in their communities to reinforce the need for strong cyber security measures everywhere – not just companies. Sharing cyber security tips at Rotary and Lions club meetings can be useful. Business owners that sit on local boards can help organizations realize they need to protect customer, member, and visitor data. As parents, as church members, as participants in a variety of community activities, small business owners can help increase awareness with any group that collects personal information. As Smokey Bear said in a campaign years ago regarding fighting wildfires, “If not you, who?”

About the Author - Carolyn Schrader is a seasoned cybersecurity professional and founder of the Cyber Security Group Inc., providing corporate cybersecurity services to high profile clients.

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