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Identity Thieves Targeting K-12 Schools At An Alarming Rate

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Cybercriminals are targeting schools at an alarming rate, putting kids at risk of identity theft. And their parents may never know.

We have uncovered some alarming statistics that show attacks are more common at K-12 schools than many realize. And they can come with significant consequences

"I always am really cautious with what I share," said Elizabeth.

From high schoolers fresh off distance learning to Mr. Code's coding classes...

"If they have all your information...," said Michael.

"If they get a hold of it, then they can do a lot of bad stuff in your name," said Toby.

Most kids realize the repercussions of a cyberattack but it turns out their schools may not.

"They can use it all the dark web," said Michael.

According to a recent IBM survey, roughly half of educators and administrators said they were unconcerned about cyber attacks.

"That's really concerning to me," said Elizabeth.

And when we asked local school districts about their policies for tracking and reporting breaches, only one out of 50 confirmed it actually had a policy.

Two school districts said they were in the process of developing a cyberattack reporting policy, and several said they needed additional time to respond, which is allowed under California's public records act. However, the vast majority of school districts did not respond to CBS13's request.

Meanwhile, CBS13 has reviewed more than 100 publicly reported cybersecurity incidents at California K-12 schools, including nearly a dozen recently reported ransomware attacks -- a type of malicious software that locks up computers and files -- with messages like this: "until a ransom is paid..."

We confirmed at least one ransomware attack in Placer County School District was never reported publicly or to parents. But cyber security analysts say that's common, tracking more than 1,600 ransomware attacks on school districts nationwide last year alone.

But from Toledo, Ohio to Texas, there are reports of student information from hundreds of these breaches now available on the dark web where kids' information sells for a premium because their clean credit histories make them ideal targets for identity thieves.

Coming up tonight at 10, why parents don't have the right to be notified of ransomware attacks. We'll also have details on what parents can do to protect their kids from school data breaches

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