Mansfield Independent School District announced that the district had been the target of a ransomware attack.
The district identified several impacted systems in the cyberattack, citing those connected to the internet, like the district’s website, email, and phones.
Mansfield ISD did not specify when the attack took place.
Internet security company Trend Micro defined ransomware as a “type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the user’s files until a ransom is paid.”
A new category of ransomware, known collectively as “cryptoransomware,” has increased in frequency and encrypts “certain file types on infected systems and force users to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods to get a decryption key.”
In a statement on the ransomware attack, Mansfield ISD Superintendent Dr. Kimberley Cantu said, “Once the issue was discovered, we immediately notified the appropriate authorities and are working closely with them to resolve the situation.”
Cantu reported the district was investigating the source of the disruption and the extent of the impact on their systems. They planned to “restore full functionality as quickly and securely as possible.”
It was unknown whether any student or personnel data was compromised or affected by the attack.
The district’s visitor and volunteer management system was impacted, causing a halt to anyone not employed by the district from gaining access to campus facilities.
“Students have been safely learning inside our campuses, and we will continue to have school, providing the best learning environment possible without the use of internet- and web-based systems,” remarked Dr. Cantu.
Cyberattacks on schools were on the rise. Schools’ reliance on technology, especially during and after the school lockdowns caused by COVID-19, and the copious amounts of data they collect and manage, make schools an increasingly attractive target for hackers.
In January 2022 alone, 5,000 schools and colleges that utilized Finalsite, a web hosting and communications service provider, went dark when they were the target of a massive ransomware attack. The attack affected 3,000 K-12 public schools in the United States.
A local example included a September 2021 attack, when hackers gained access to the personal information of over 500 former and current Allen ISD employees and tried to extort the district for millions of dollars.
Cyberattacks are a growing problem, and districts must be responsive to the latest threats.
Doug Levin, one of the top minds in the country on cybersecurity for K-12 schools, said in an interview, “It is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, meaning that as people learn how to protect themselves from attacks, the [bad] actors change their tactics and get more sophisticated.”
As of Tuesday, August 23, Mansfield ISD was still attempting to restore its systems.
“I’m proud of how our staff and students are keeping learning at the forefront during this time,” continued Dr. Cantu. “Many of our educational tools and processes are facilitated by being connected to the internet, but our amazing teachers and staff have been able to use their fundamental skills and relationships with students to move ahead despite the hurdles we’re experiencing.