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Data from Area School District is on the Dark Web

By Noir Sept. 29, 2021, 9:05 a.m.
Data from Area School District is on the Dark Web

What if hackers attack your child’s school and steal their personal information. Will you hear about it? Maybe. But the chances are you might never hear about the attack. This is precisely what happened to Area School District. Data from Area School District ended up on the dark web

An investigator from CBS 2 identified one southwest suburban school district previously targeted. The hackers stole personal information in the attack. The attack caught the staff and parents completely unaware. However, nobody knew how they got stolen or how it happened. Dana Kozlov, a CBS 2 Investigator, informed them of the attack.

Experts’ Opinion About Data from Area School District on The Dark Web

According to Crane Hassold, this is a cyber bomb. Hassold is a Director of Threat Intelligence at Abnormal Security. He says that the bomb goes off and encrypts all the data. After that, the attackers provide a ransom note, and the case escalates from there.
Hassold believes this was a ransomware attack. These attacks hold personal information hostage until the victims pay the ransom. If you fail to make the payment, your information gets published on the internet. School districts are the primary targets of such attacks. The criminals behind these attacks are very hard to trace.

How Many Schools Are Victims of Such Attacks?

According to Doug Levin, cybersecurity threats face the school sector. Levin is the head of K12 Security Info Exchange (K12 SIX). The non-profit organization launched last year due to the attacks on schools.
As documented by Levin, nearly 1,200 school cyber incidents occurred since 2016 countrywide. All the attacks got exposed publicly. Even so, practitioners say that the publicly exposed breaches are but the tip of the iceberg. The attacks are just a fraction of the cyber threats on school districts.
By why are the cybercriminals attacking schools? Well, student data is one of the most valuable data in the black market. The culprits value them because they contain pristine credit records.
The CBS 2 Investigators requested public records of 60 school districts in Illinois. The investigators asked for any intel on cyber breaches and ransomware attacks. Two cyber-attacks got reported by Palos Community Consolidated School District 118. These attacks took place in September and December of last year.
The school’s website and internal email mention the cyber-attacks. Moreover, they report that the school conducted internal audits. Also, they claim that there was no reason to believe their data got compromised.

So, What Kind of data did they steal?

Hassold searched school data on the darknet. His query in the dark market turned up several internal District 118 files. Additionally, Hassold said that all the results are ransomware attacks. He also found sensitive information among the files. Furthermore, the data contained testing scores.

But it doesn’t stop at that. The files also contained personal data of old and new students. Also, some files had students’ names, birthdays, and addresses. Furthermore, the files had worker W-4 tax forms, including Social Security numbers. Surprisingly, these forms date back to 1988.
The Social Security Numbers, names, addresses, and birthdates are very sensitive. Cybercriminals can use them for identity theft. Additionally, criminals can use them to file fraudulent unemployment claims.
Cybercriminals access the dark web through special networks like tor. The culprits trade the stolen data in black marketplaces. They use cryptocurrency to transact in the marketplaces. The Tor browser and the digital coins hide the criminal’s identities. This makes it hard for law enforcement agencies to track them.

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