More Than Half Of All Schools Were Victim To Cyberattacks Last Year

School cyberattacks are happening more and more, as now more than half of schools across the globe are victim to these ransomware attacks.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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school cyberattacks

As more and more school data transfers to computer-housed databases, school cyberattacks have become a normal occurrence all across the globe. The situation is becoming so dire, that since 2016, these types of breaches have increased more than fivefold. This past school year, schools were hit harder than ever, as more than half of all schools reported being victims of at least one cyberattack, a growing problem that needs to be addressed. 

An independent survey conducted by Sophos, a British security software company, released global data each year regarding school cyberattacks. For the 2020-2021 school year, these ransomware attacks increased, with 44% of schools and colleges reporting an attack. This finding sharply rose during the 2021-2022. Last year, 56% of all global k-12 schools reported attacks, and a whopping 64% of colleges and universities fell victim. 

What’s more, of the responding schools surveyed for the report, 47% of schools said they received more school cyberattacks throughout the school year.  Additionally, half of them reported that the obscurity of the attacks and expertise of the hackers was much more complex than what they had been up against previously. Most schools received at least some encrypted data back following the ransomware attacks, but startingly, a mere 2% reported getting the entirety of stolen data back after paying the cyber hackers. 

These findings depict just how underprepared the education sector really is going into the future, where school databases seem to be the newfound easy target for dark web criminals. The belief is that school cyberattacks may be increasing in occurrence because young student data serves as the perfect target for identity theft. If hackers can steal sensitive school data like a kindergartner’s social security numbers, the thought is that it may slip under the radar for years, as these individuals aren’t likely to check a credit report for years and years to come. 

Those working in the sector to fend off these types of attacks have warned the U.S. Department of Education for years that further steps and initiatives would be needed to fend off school cyberattacks. Student information has been slowly but surely transferring nearly entirely online for years, but the amount of information available for ransomware criminals is now boundless, with the help of the pandemic and education mitigating to online learning. 

What’s most alarming is that a government watchdog agency called out the Department of Education last November for not having updated its plan for addressing school cyberattacks and risks since 2010. The call to action asserted that more guidelines need to be put in place by the government to help schools know how to better protect themselves. Now, given that these data breaches are perpetually growing, there’s no denying that further steps need to be taken. 

school cyberattacks

Some of the largest and most complex data breaches were reported affecting hundreds of thousands of students in the largest school districts across America this past school year. These massive school cyberattacks are highlighting another growing issue in public education, as more and more families leave the system. If the Department of Education fails to ramp up efforts to place more security measures on sensitive student data, more families will likely leave because of this.