Watch CBS News

Federal Money To Help Protect School Districts From Cyberattacks And Ransom Demands

MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - Cyberattacks against school systems are becoming more damaging and aggressive with threats of extortion, unless ransom is paid.

It's costing taxpayers big bucks to repair school technology.

Now help is on the way from the federal government.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reports, the Manhasset school system is feeling the longterm effects from a targeted cyberattack in September that wreaked havoc.

"Sadly they continue to perpetrate the crime by releasing the information they stole from us onto the dark web," said Acting Superintendent of Manhasset Schools Gaurav Passi.

The hackers encrypted Manhasset's computer system and demanded money to unlock it. Manhasset did not pay the ransom. The criminals then posted the stolen data.

"It's scary because now our personal information is all over the place. We don't know who is in danger," said student Rashaun Gardner.

Cyberattack against schools is one of the fastest growing crimes in our nation. Sen. Charles Schumer helped secure $1 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure bill to help schools fortify their defenses. Thirteen Long Island school districts have been breached.

"To help school districts that have been attacked recover. It also goes to other school districts to put in the kind of software and other protections that are needed," Schumer said.

"The bad guys are continually practicing their craft. We have to be one step ahead of them," said Nassau BOCES Superintendent Dr. Robert Dillon.

Nassau BOCES is monitoring school systems to prevent sabotage from crooks who want to command and conquer. Shaun Pleickhardt's company  Synack Technology of Centereach protects systems.

"Once it takes hold of one machine, it uses what we call pivoting to start scanning other machines for security vulnerabilties and try to infiltrate servers, latops," Pleickhardt said.

"A cascading effect?" McLogan asked.

"Exactly, yes," Pleickhardt said.

"Strangest thing to come to school, suddenly I had no wifi, I wasn't allowed to use my laptop," said Manhasset High student Megan Amato.

The attackers are often elusive. Ransomware gangs are based overseas in countries for which the U.S. has no extradition treaty.

All school district are urged to  directly apply for the federal cyberware protection dollars.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.