PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County school that was forced to close because of a cyber attack is now reopened.
Eyewitness News first covered the cyber attack on the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center on March 9. The attack also impacted eight other school districts.
Officials at the Wilkes-Barre Area CTC tell Eyewitness News they are still trying to determine if the attack was a ransomware attack, meaning, did the cybercriminals carry it out to receive some sort of payment from the school?
On Monday, I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick spoke with a cyber attack expert who says these kinds of crimes are becoming all too common.
“Unfortunately the bad guys have discovered that schools are a prime target because, unfortunately, schools have weak cyber security but they also have a lot of data,” said Sai Huda, CEO of Cybercatch.
Sai Huda is a nationally known cyber attack expert. His company, Cybercatch, has partnered with a school safety firm to help teach school districts how to fend off cyber attacks.
“CyberCatch scanned over 11,000 schools in the U.S. including Pennsylvania and we discovered that 7 out of 10 have vulnerabilities on their websites and web applications that the attackers can exploit in minutes,” said Huda.
Huda is not involved with the investigation into the cyber attack at the Wilkes-Barre Area CTC.
School officials at the school say they had protective software and data backup that limited the damage done by the cyber attacks.
In-person classes resumed Monday after the school was closed Thursday and Friday.
The online server that provided “financials,” including payroll information to school districts, is up and running.
Huda says many school districts are not prepared for such an attack.
“School data is very valuable for the bad guys. Social Security numbers can be sold for $15 dollars a pop, medical records $150 dollars, a full profile from the members, parents sold for $1,000 dollars on the dark web. So there’s a lot of money to be made,” said Huda.
Huda advises that schools who carry out routine fire drills and safety drills should also perform cyber drills.
“Schools have not realized that they can do a cyber drill, which means simulate ransomware attack and see how you respond. Schools are supposed to have incident response plan. Test it. Most schools haven’t done that,” said Huda.
Huda says that school districts and individuals should change their passwords frequently. Again, Never open a link that you are not familiar with.