Cybersecurity Incident Shuts Down Des Moines School District

Classes last week were cancelled in Massachusetts, and this week, in Iowa.

Cybersecurity Incident Shuts Down Des Moines School District

(Photo: Shutter2U, Adobe Stock)

UPDATE JANUARY 10, 2023:

Des Moines, Iowa — Another school district was forced to cancel classes on Tuesday as a result of a cybersecurity incident. This time, it was in Iowa.

Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) took its internet and network services offline on Monday due to unusual activity on the network, reports KCCI. Much of the technology used in classrooms and to operate campuses is not working.

IT and consultants hired by DMPS are currently working to resolve the issue.

Last Wednesday, the Swansea Public Schools district cancelled classes because it was the target of a ransomware attack. The original article on that shut down is below.

Original January 5, 2023 article:

Swansea, Massachusetts – It’s a new year and a new round of ransomware attacks on education have been discovered… this time in Massachusetts. The Swansea Public Schools district announced on Tuesday it has cancelled Wednesday’s classes because the district’s network was being held hostage.

“Due to ransom ware attack, our network is shutdown. School is canceled tomorrow 1/4/23. Principals will be sending one call and it the cancellation will be posted on news stations this evening,” Swansea Public Schools Superintendent John Robidoux announced on Twitter.

Robidoux didn’t say when classes will resume. The district has hired a cybersecurity provider to determine the extent of the attack on the district’s network.

The affected schools include Joseph Case High School, Joseph Case Junior High School, Elizabeth S. Brown Elementary, Joseph G. Luther Elementary, Gardner Elementary, and Mark G. Hoyle Elementary, reports WCVB. Despite the closures, transportation will be available for students attending special education schools that aren’t in the district.

Meanwhile, nearby Bristol Community College is still struggling to recover from a ransomware attack that was discovered December 23, reports NBC Boston. Although classes haven’t been canceled at the college, online services, including email, have been affected for more than a week.

It’s not clear if the attacks on Swansea Public Schools and Bristol Community College are connected. It also hasn’t been announced which ransomware gang or gangs is responsible for the attacks.

In Illinois, Knox College was targeted by the Hive in December. The hacker group even emailed students directly with their ransom demands.

In November, Microsoft sounded the alarm on Vice Society, another ransomware group that is heavily targeting the education sector and preying upon organizations that have weak security controls and a higher likelihood of compromise and ransom payout. The group claimed responsibility for last fall’s cyberattack at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

Although cybersecurity experts advise ransomware victims to never pay their attackers, a study by NBC10 Boston investigators found that at least 10 Massachusetts communities that were victimized by ransomware gangs have paid their hackers to unlock their files.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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