Cybersecurity expert warns about the dangers of ransomware attacks

Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 11:10 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Jefferson County School System is reporting a ransomware attack over Spring Break. They say right now, all network systems are down to investigate.

A local cybersecurity expert not affiliated with the investigation says unfortunately, ransomware attacks are becoming more frequent.

Robert Hill, the CEO of Cyturus, says Digital Shadows lists education and school systems as the sixth most targeted entity for attackers.

As he explains, the breaches can result in one of two things: “This could be a simple fact it’s basic ransomware. That is someone clicked on something. It locked up their machines. It encrypted the data and there’s nothing more than that. They recover that. They restore from backups from a system and there has been no impact to those students, to those parents. But on the opposite extreme, it could be an exfiltration and that’s what we’re waiting to see.”

Hill says some ransomware attackers try to steal personal information like names, addresses, even social security numbers, while others just want money.

“$800,000 is the average payout for ransomware to get that key to decrypt your data,” said Hill. “But the average actual cost, according to the FBI, is about $4.2-4.5 million dollars per ransomware so you can see how that can effect a small business, a small organization, a school system in a very negative way.”

Hill says not only do you have the cost of recovering that data, but also legal and expert expenses too.

At this point, many questions remain.

“We need to understand who it was, whether it was malicious or if it was after actual information, was it financially-based where they were just wanting that -- pay us and we’ll give you your data back -- or what the purpose of this was,” said Hill.

The Jefferson County School System says they have taken all network systems down for the time being to investigate and make sure all traces of malware are gone.

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