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CYBERSEC


Transportation’s Million Dollar Question


Student Written by Amanda Pampuro A


fter months of preparation, Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut was ready to reopen for in-person learning last September amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Then a ransomware


attack took out the bus routing software. With more than two-thirds of school servers affected,


Metro-Hartford Information Services, a shared IT depart- ment between the city and the school district, worked quickly to save many critical services. But with the school bus routing software still affected, Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez made the call to delay reopening. “Based on an initial analysis by the Connecticut Na-


tional Guard and the FBI, the attack was likely conducted by a highly sophisticated actor, so in one sense we were fortunate that we avoided the worst case scenario,” Tor- res-Rodriguez told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs last December. Thanks in part to $500,000 in IT improvements made


the year prior, the school district serving 18,000 students managed to bring routing software back online within 24


44 School Transportation News • SEPTEMBER 2021


hours and without paying a dime to the cybercriminals. A spokesperson for Hartford Public Schools told School Transportation News that following the attack, the district moved its transportation software to a web- based platform with cloud storage to safeguard it from future incidents. From ransomware to email phishing schemes, cyberat- tacks are increasingly targeting school districts. A report published by the nonprofit K12 SIX in March tracked 408 cyber incidents reported against schools last year alone. Data breaches made up more than one-third of attacks,


while about 12 percent were identified as ransomware, a powerful type of malware designed to extort money from victims. Nearly half of the attacks were classified as other, which includes online class invasions—uninvited individ- uals crashing an online meeting, dubbed Zoom bombings. “All that cybercriminals need to know is that you’re


an organization that has a lot of money or has a lot of sensitive data that they can monetize, that maybe cy- bersecurity has not been a priority, and that if they take


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