As classes begin, schools confront rise in cyber threats

As the upcoming school year begins, districts are getting ready for students – and cyberattacks too.

Just this week, officials at Prince George’s County Public Schools said a cyberattack on the school system’s network impacted an estimated 4,500 accounts, mostly belonging to staff.

Similar attacks are happening a lot.

A government report released in 2022 found that schools have become even more vulnerable, in part because of an increased dependence on technology during the pandemic.

"This is a particularly fraught time of year for school districts with respect to cybersecurity," said Doug Levin, the director of national nonprofit K12 Security Information eXchange, which aims to help school districts around the country defend themselves from emerging risks, like ransomware attacks, data breaches, and phishing attacks.


PGCPS network hit by cyberattack: 4,500 accounts affected

Prince George's County Public Schools revealed Monday its network experienced a cyber attack.

"While people don’t think of government organizations or school districts as rich organizations with a lot of money," Levin explained, "they do have relatively weaker defenses, and they have more than enough money and more than enough sensitive data to make it worthwhile for these criminal groups to target."

In one example, a school district in Connecticut reportedly lost more than $6 million earlier this summer.

"It’s not unusual now to see a school district having to close, to shutter its doors when they’re experiencing a school cyberattack," Levin said. "It just speaks to the reliance that schools have on technology today."

He recommends districts invest in preventing the attacks and also have a plan in the event cyber criminals strike.

In Prince George’s County, officials said Friday that they continue to investigate the attack that occurred earlier this week.