Ransomware attack affected 5,000 school websites :: WRAL.com

– A ransomware attack on software provider Finalsite has affected the websites of about 5,000 schools, most of them in the United States, a spokesperson for Finalsite told CNN on Friday.

According to Finalsite, approximately 8,000 schools — including boarding schools, high schools, and colleges — worldwide use Connecticut-based Finalsite software for their websites and public communications.

The websites of a “majority of our schools are back online this morning,” Finalsite spokesperson Morgan Delack said in an email. “At this time, we have no evidence that the data has been compromised.”

The tech company says it discovered the ransomware on some of its computer systems on Tuesday. “(We) made the decision to shut down our network when we saw the problem and rebuilt everything in a clean environment,” Delack said. “We have all the data from our customers.”

About 4,500 of the affected schools are in the United States, Delack said.

The Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Catholic graduate school in St. Louis, said the incident disrupted communications with applicants at the school.

“(Our) web presence has been permanently interrupted by what happened with FinalSite,” Jessica Adams, graduate enrollment coordinator at Aquinas Theological Institute, told CNN in an email. mail. “Bad timing for us as we’re in the middle of a final push for applicants to our programs and it’s hard to tell people about the programs when the website with the information isn’t working.”

In addition to communication platforms like Finalsite, ransomware attacks have disrupted remote learning for a number of schools in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes an incident that forced public schools in Baltimore County to temporarily close in November 2020.

In each of the past three years, ransomware has disrupted more than a thousand K-12 schools in the United States, according to cybersecurity firm Emsisoft.

“Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that 2022 will be significantly different from previous years in terms of the number of incidents,” Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow told CNN.

The Government Accountability Office, a federal auditor, called on the Department of Education to do more to protect schools from hacking threats.

A GAO report released in November found that the department “lacks an up-to-date plan based on a current assessment of the cybersecurity risks facing” the education sector.

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