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Aug 11, 2023

Ransomware Attacks on U.S. Schools: The Urgent Need for Managed XDR Solutions

The cyber landscape is rapidly evolving, and schools, institutions entrusted with nurturing the future of the nation, are finding themselves at the crosshairs of malicious actors. A recent cybersecurity summit held at the White House cast a spotlight on the pressing issue of ransomware attacks plaguing U.S. schools.

The Facts:

According to cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, at least 48 school districts have fallen victim to ransomware attacks in just the early months of this year. That's three more than all of 2022. Disturbingly, data theft occurred in almost all these incidents, and the perpetrators were typically Russian-speaking gangs.

This has had a domino effect. In 2020, more than 1.2 million students were impacted, leading to lost learning periods that ranged from a few days to several weeks. A survey by the Center for Internet Security revealed that almost a third of U.S. school districts had been compromised by the end of 2021.

The malicious intent of these cybercriminals is unmistakable. Everything from medical records to reports on suicide attempts have been maliciously dumped online.


The Response:

The summit led to the announcement of several measures to help schools beef up their cybersecurity stance:

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is set to intensify its security assessments tailored for K-12 schools.

Tech giants like Amazon Web Services, Google, and Cloudflare are stepping in to offer grants and support.

A proposed pilot by the Federal Communications Commission is looking to allocate $200 million over three years to bolster cyber defense for schools and libraries.

However, some experts feel these initiatives, though commendable, might not be enough. Keith Krueger, CEO of the nonprofit Consortium for School Networking, mentioned that what schools need isn't just a one-time fund but a sustainable, dedicated stream of resources to combat this threat.


The Real Concerns:

The issue runs deeper than the immediate financial impact or disrupted operations. It's the lasting trauma experienced by students, staff, and parents when sensitive data is exposed online. It underscores the immediate necessity for a robust cybersecurity framework.

Moreover, many schools are falling behind in adopting advanced security measures. With 66% of districts lacking a dedicated cybersecurity position and almost half of them spending 2% or less of their IT budget on cybersecurity, the need for an external solution is evident.


Why Managed XDR Solutions?

For midsize organizations like school districts, finding resources for a full-time cybersecurity staff can be challenging. This is where our Managed XDR offering comes into play. Tailor-made for the unique needs and budgets of midsize entities, our solution offers:

Comprehensive monitoring to identify and address threats before they escalate.

An emphasis on internal vulnerability scanning, crucial given that many schools currently undertake this only biannually.

A partnership approach, understanding the specific nuances and challenges faced by educational institutions.

With the evolving cyber threat landscape, schools can't afford to be reactive anymore. Proactive security, enabled by partners like us who understand the midmarket's specific challenges, is the need of the hour. Together, we can ensure that our schools remain a safe haven for our children, unfettered by the looming shadow of cyber threats.


How Gradient Cyber Can Help:

Gradient Cyber is the leading provider of MXDR services to the mid-market. To learn more about how you can improve your cybersecurity posture, please use the contact us form to request more information.