U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed a multifaceted plan to prevent hackers from taking schools and the personal information of New York students hostage.
Schumer explained that in recent months, school districts across the state, from Central New York to the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region to the Hudson Valley, have been zeroed in on by hackers using ransomware, says a press release.
To address the ransomware attacks across Upstate New York, Schumer pushed a two-pronged plan. First, Schumer called to expediently consider and pass the DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act, which was introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and co-sponsored by Schumer. The legislation would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to maintain and strengthen cyber hunt and incident response teams to assist in protecting state and local entities from cyber threats and help restore the functionality of private or public infrastructure following an attack.
Second, Schumer urged the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to ensure its field offices have the resources necessary to investigate and identify the perpetrators of the attacks in New York and demanded a briefing from FBI on how to better prevent future attacks. Schumer said taken in tandem, the two measures would be a critical step towards thwarting hackers and ransomware attacks throughout New York, helping to protect students’ personal information and school resources from harm.
Schumer explained that, according to reports, on July 8th of this year the Syracuse City School District was breached by ransomware and forced to pay a $50,000 insurance deductible to regain access to its computer systems. The July ransomware attack kept Syracuse City School District locked out of its operating system for roughly a 24 hour period, and additionally damaged its website, email system, and phones and ran the risk of exposing students’ private information to hackers. Similarly, Schumer explained, that same month in the North Country, the Watertown City School District was also attacked by ransomware. Furthermore, over the past few years, a major uptick in ransomware attacks has been reported among Rochester-Finger Lakes Region school districts. At least two attempted ransomware attacks have targeted the Rochester City School District recently, and in 2016, the Holley Central School District was hacked, with the private information of many employees being exposed in the process.
Schumer added that school districts in the Hudson Valley have been particularly impacted by the scourge of ransomware. This month, the Monroe-Woodbury School District had to cancel its first day of class, September 4th, due to an attempted intrusion by hackers. Furthermore, in 2016, the Rhinebeck School District was struck by ransomware and was temporarily locked out of its system. The hackers demanded $500 from the Rhinebeck School District in exchange for returning access to its computers.