Throughout the first half of 2023, K12 and higher education institutions experienced 85 ransomware attacks, nearly doubling last year’s recording, according to a new analysis from Comparitech. Unfortunately for the education sector as a whole, it’s a troubling trend that shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s costing schools a fortune in downtime.
Cybersecurity quickly made its way to the top of the list of priorities for education leaders, especially since the pandemic. The rapid expansions of remote learning technologies and online communications have resulted in a plethora of open doors, so to speak, for cybercriminals to creep their way into. Recent attacks have revealed to both K12 and higher ed leaders that no school district or college is free from concern, despite the resources they may boast.
This was evident last year after a ransomware attack disrupted operations for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest district in the country.
Several colleges and universities have already witnessed their fair share of attacks during the second quarter of 2023, including Georgia’s Mercer University, West Virginia’s Bluefield University and Tennessee’s Chattanooga State Community College, Campus Safety Magazine reports.
Thus, it’s no surprise that ransomware attacks are having such a profound on educational institutions, especially when it comes to recovery time.
According to the Comparitech report, at least 561 K12 schools and higher ed institutions have been hit by a ransomware attack between 2018 and mid-September 2023. Furthermore, the researchers estimate these attacks could “cost the world economy more than $53 billion in downtime alone.”
“While ransomware attacks across other sectors dipped in 2022, the same wasn’t true in education,” the researchers declare. “In fact, attacks on this industry have remained consistently high for the last four years. 2023, however, looks set to be a record-breaking year with a significant uptick in the number of attacks witnessed so far.”
In 2023 alone, at least 50 K12 schools have witnessed a ransomware attack compared to 52 colleges/universities.
Diving into the data
While there’s no doubt that cyberattacks against the education sector have ramped up considerably over the past several years, it’s also important for leaders to understand the nature of these attacks. Doing so may give you a better sense of what flaws may exist within your own school’s security network.
Here are some additional key findings you may find valuable for keeping your schools safe and secure this year:
- Ransom demands varied from $1,000 to $40 million
- On average, hackers demanded $1.5 million, suggesting nearly $1 billion in ransom payments has been demanded in total
- Downtime ranged from a couple of hours to 36 days; 2023’s average downtime is 11.6 days