Michigan schools look to address growing cybersecurity concerns | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) — When you hear the words “school” and “security,” chances are you think of locked entryway doors and steps to prevent acts of violence.

But there is a growing call for a different type of security upgrade at our schools, one that also keeps people with bad intentions from getting access not to our students, but rather their data.

“Wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions,” said Traverse City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner

“While there are different reports on social media and this and that… we’re really concerned right now still on the forensic investigation,” Dr. VanWagoner said.

Those social media claims, that may or may not be true, suggest that what forced TCAPS to cancel two days of class right after spring break may in fact have been a ransomware attack, with online posts even suggesting who may be behind it.

An investigation is underway.

“It’s still going to take a little time to really, you know, find out real, exact details of what’s happened. And we’re obligated to look at how can we use our resources to mitigate that in the future,” Dr. VanWagoner said.

TCAPS isn’t alone in addressing future cybersecurity concerns and those in the know say, if you’re school isn’t, they should be.

“There are malicious actors, both state and non-state malicious actors, that just want to do us ill. And we want to provide as much support as we can to the school districts,” said Harry Coker.

As the White House’s National Cyber Director, Coker knows well what possess a risk to our data online, and that includes all the information local schools have in their files.

“It’s important to be here in Michigan because we want to emphasize some things that can better posture the community for cybersecurity,” Coker said.

On Tuesday, Coker traveled to Michigan to participate in a roundtable to promote free tools to K-12 school districts hosted by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

More than 20 education and cybersecurity leaders discussed new and free services now available to schools through the Federal Governments Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC).

“There’s an awful lot of cybersecurity resources that are available and we want folks to take advantage of that,” Coker said.

Free or low-cost resources, which may go a long way to addressing local schools’ cybersecurity concerns.

According to a recent Center for Internet Security survey, 81% of responding K-12 schools say they lack sufficient funding to address such security concerns.

“Unfortunately, cyber criminals, they don’t discern between schools and other types of businesses,” said Michigan’s Chief Information Officer Laura Clark.

There is no discern because ultimately, hackers are after personal data either for their own use, or to hold ransom hoping to exchange access to the data for money.

Hackers find ways into systems and often, schools, and many businesses find themselves one step behind.

“We see that schools are being attacked, because there’s vulnerabilities. So, it’s highly important for us to help them get tools and resources in order to be able to protect their systems or their networks,” Clark said.

Back at TCAPS, the investigation continues.

But they aren’t waiting for answers about this incident, before taking steps to help prevent a possible next one.

“I fear for school districts and small businesses that don’t have the resources that some of these global companies that are having this happen to, and that’s the real struggle. But we’re going to do our due diligence, do the best we can at reviewing all our things and adding on to the great protocols we already have in place, but seeing what we can do to further protect ourselves,” Dr. VanWagoner said.

TCAPS did express that this is likely going to be a lengthy investigation into their ransomware attack.

According to the FBI not many of these cases lead to actual convictions due to the difficulty in tracking down those behind the attacks.


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National Cyber Security