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Ransomware attack on schools in Taos, New Mexico

March 29, 2019,

Municipal Schools in Taos, NM came under a cyber attack on February 28th with the criminal(s) demanding $5,000 to allow the schools to regain access to their data. The attack has been stopped with most services returned to normal operation.

School officials reported that access to email, lessons tech and the local district website were disabled during the attack.

The Superintendent Lillian Torrez has said “That was scary, we thought it was a virus, the way it came in.”

The attack appears to have originated in a text book style by way of email. An unexpecting employee opens an email and they virus infects their PC and has the intelligence to encrypt data on the local and network drives the employee has access to.

Superintendent Lillian Torrez goes on to say, “Our IT department has been working 20-hour days to recreate our websites.”

Schools are unfortunately more vulnerable than most other government departments and companies, in that they expect to receive email from students, parents, suppliers and just about anyone. They don’t have the mandate to preclude certain types of email.

With an open approach like this comes the risk that even a genuine email from a concerned parent can be infected with ransomware if the sender doesn’t have anti-virus on their device.

Thankfully it looks like they have recovered from this attack because they had the resources and know how to bring their systems back online and recover their data.

We don’t know anything about their backup strategy, but we do know that an online backup to multiple destinations which is properly managed with DR processes, and tested regulary, it is possible to recover from this type of attack.

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