The financial services sector and healthcare industry are obvious targets for cybercriminals, but cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 have risen sharply. There have been a multitude of cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, and February is far from over. The list paints a particularly bleak outlook for the rest of the year. At the current rate, cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 are likely to smash all previous records, eclipsing last year’s total by a considerable distance.
Why Have There Been So Many Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017?
Educational institutions are attractive targets for cybercriminals. They hold large quantities of personal information of staff and students. Universities conduct research which can fetch big bucks on the black market.
While some of the finest minds, including computer scientists, are employed by universities, IT departments are relatively small, especially compared to those at large corporations.
Educational institutions, especially universities, are often linked to government agencies. If hackers can break into a university network, they can use it to launch attacks on the government. It is far easier than direct attacks on government agencies.
Cybersecurity protections in universities are often relatively poor. After all, it is hard to secure sprawling systems and huge networks that are designed to share information and promote free access to information by staff, students and researchers. Typically, university networks have many vulnerabilities that can easily be exploited.
Schools are also often poorly protected due to a lack of skilled staff and funding. Further, many schools are now moving to one-to-one programs, which means each student is issued with either a Chrome tablet or a Windows 10 laptop. More devices mean more opportunities for attack, plus the longer each student is connected to the Internet, the more time cybercriminals have to conduct attacks.
Another problem affecting K12 schools is the age of individuals who are accessing the Internet and email. Being younger, they tend to lack awareness about the risks online and are therefore more susceptible to social engineering and phishing attacks. The data of minors is also much more valuable and can be used for far longer by cybercriminals before fraud is detected.
While college students are savvier about the risks online, they are targeted using sophisticated scams geared to their ages. Fake job offers and scams about student loans are rife.
The threat of cyberattacks doesn’t always come from outside an institution. School, college and university students are hacking their own institution to gain access to systems to change their grades or for sabotage. Students with huge debts may also seek data to sell on the black market to help make ends meet.
While all of these issues can be resolved, much needs to be done and many challenges need to be overcome. It is an uphill struggle, and without additional funding that task can seem impossible. However, protections can be greatly improved without breaking the bank.
Major Cyberattacks on Educational Institutions in 2017
There have been several major cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017, resulting in huge losses – both financial losses and loss of data. Educational institutions have been hacked by outsiders, hacked by insiders and ransomware attacks are a growing problem. Then there are the email-based social engineering scams that seek the tax information of staff. Already this year there have been huge numbers of attacks that have resulted in the theft of W-2 forms. The data on the forms are used to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of staff.
Notable cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 include:
Los Angeles Valley College
One of the most expensive cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was a ransomware infection at Los Angeles Valley College. The attack saw a wide range of sensitive data encrypted, taking its network, email accounts and voicemail system out of action. The systems could not be restored from backups leaving the college with little alternative but to pay the $28,000 ransom demand. Fortunately, valid decryption keys were sent and data could be restored after the ransom was paid.
South Carolina’s Horry County Schools
The Horry County School District serves almost 43,000 students. It too was the victim of a ransomware attack that saw its systems taken out of action for a week, even though the ransom demand was paid. While it would have been possible to restore data from backups, the amount of time it would take made it preferable to pay the $8,500 ransom demand.
South Washington County Schools
Hackers do not always come from outside an organization, as discovered by South Washington County Schools. A student hacked a server and copied the records of 15,000 students onto a portable storage device, although the incident was detected and the individual apprehended before data could be sold or misused.
Northside Independent School District
One of the largest cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 was reported by Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. Hackers gained access to its systems and the records of more than 23,000 staff and students.
Manatee County School District
Manatee County School District experienced one of the largest W-2 form phishing attacks of the year to date. A member of staff responded to a phishing email and sent the W-2 forms of 7,900 staff members to tax fraudsters.
Huge Numbers of W-2 Form Phishing Attacks Reported
This year has seen huge numbers of W-2 form phishing attacks on educational institutions. Databreaches.net has been tracking the breach reports, with the following schools, colleges and educational institutions all having fallen for phishing scams. Each has sent hundreds – or thousands of W-2 forms to tax fraudsters after responding to phishing emails.
Abernathy Independent School District
Argyle School District
Ark City School District
Barron Area School District
Belton Independent School District
Ben Bolt Independent School District
Black River Falls School District
Bloomington Public Schools
College of Southern Idaho
Corsicana Independent School District
Davidson County Schools
Glastonbury Public Schools
Groton Public Schools
Independence School District
Lexington School District 2
Manatee County School District
Mercedes Independent School District
Mercer County Schools
Mohave Community College
Morton School District
Mount Health City Schools
Neosho County Community College
Odessa School District
Powhatan County Public Schools
Redmond School District
San Diego Christian College
Tipton County Schools
Trenton R-9 School District
Tyler Independent School District
Virginian Wesleyan College
Walton School District
Yukon Public Schools
*List updated June 2017
These cyberattacks on educational institutions in 2017 show how important it is to improve cybersecurity defenses.
If you would like advice on methods/solutions you can adopt to reduce the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches, contact TitanHQ today. TitanHQ offers cost-effective cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions to block email and web-based attacks and prevent data breaches.
There are many cybersecurity solutions for managed service providers to add to their service stacks and offer to clients. However, the failure to offer a comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions can prove costly. There is considerable demand for managed services, and the failure to provide them could see clients effectively handed to competitors.
Furthermore, there is now increased competition. Managed service providers have offered preventative cybersecurity solutions to their clients for many years, but competition in this sphere is increasing.
IT companies that have previously relied on fixing computer problems or providing data breach investigative services as their core business have realized there is big money to be made from providing cybersecurity services to prevent problems. An increasing number of IT companies are now capitalizing on high profile data breaches and demand for preventative solutions from SMBs and are now providing these services.
In order to capitalize on the opportunity for sales and to make sure clients do not start looking elsewhere, managed service providers need to make sure that they offer a full suite of cybersecurity solutions. Solutions that will keep their clients protected from the barrage of cybersecurity attacks that are now occurring.
Fortunately, the move away from hardware-based solutions to cloud-based services is making it easier for managed services providers. Cloud-based solutions are not only cheaper for clients, they are easier for MSPs to deliver and manage. While providing solutions that prevent cyberattacks may have been impractical and provided little return for the effort, that is no longer the case.
There are many potential cybersecurity solutions for managed service providers, although one area in particular where MSPs can take advantage is to offer solutions to prevent phishing attacks. Phishing – obtaining sensitive information from employees – is one of the main ways that cybercriminals gain access to networks and sensitive data.
Companies are spending big on network security to prevent direct attacks, yet cybercriminals know all too well that even multi-million-dollar security defenses can be breached. The easiest way to gain network access is to be provided with it by employees.
It is much easier to fool an employee into downloading malware, ransomware, or revealing their email or login credentials that it is to find security vulnerabilities or use brute force tactics. All it takes is for a phishing email to reach the inbox of an employee.
Anti-phishing training companies, which provide security awareness training for employees and teach them how to identify phishing emails, know all too well that training alone is ineffective. Some employees are poor at putting training into practice.
Even if security awareness training is provided, employees will still open email attachments from strangers and click on links sent to them in emails. Furthermore, cybercriminals are getting better at crafting emails to get links clicked and malware-ridden attachments opened.
We have already seen this year (and last tax season) how effective phishing emails can be. At least 145 companies in the United States (that we know about) emailed W-2 Forms of employees to scammers via email last year. This year looks like it will be even worse.
A high percentage of malware infections occur as a result of spam emails with infection either through email attachments (downloaders) or links to malicious sites where malware is silently downloaded. The same is true of many ransomware infections.
Given the high risk of a phishing attack occurring or information-stealing malware and ransomware being installed, organizations are happy to pay for managed solutions that can block phishing emails, prevent malware-infecting emails from being delivered, and stop employees from visiting malicious links.
MSPs can take advantage by providing these services. Since cloud-based solutions are available that offer the required level of protection, adding these solutions to an MSPs service stack is a no brainer. Cloud-based solutions to protect against phishing, malware, and ransomware infections require no hardware, no site visits, and require little management overhead.
TitanHQ can provide cloud-based solutions ideal for inclusion in MSPs service stacks. TitanHQ’s email and web protection solutions – SpamTitan and WebTitan – are effective at blocking a wide range of email and web-borne threats.
SpamTitan blocks over 99.97% of spam email, has a low false positive rate and blocks 100% of known malware. Inboxes are kept spam and malware free, and an anti-phishing component prevents phishing emails from being delivered to end users.
WebTitan offers excellent protection from web-borne threats, protecting employees and networks from drive-by malware and ransomware downloads and blocking links to malicious websites.
Furthermore, these solutions can be run in a public/private cloud, can be provided in white-label format ready for MSP’s branding, have low management overhead and include generous margins for MSPs.
If you are an MSP and are looking to increase the range of cybersecurity services you can offer to clients, give TitanHQ a call today and find out more about the our cybersecurity solutions for managed service providers.
With our cybersecurity solutions for managed service providers, you can improve your cybersecurity portfolio, provide better value to your clients and boost your bottom line.
The past few months have seen an increase in phishing attacks on law firms. Cybercriminals are attacking law firms to gain access to the highly confidential data held by attorneys and solicitors. Healthcare industry attacks are often conducted to obtain sensitive patient data that can be used for identity theft and tax fraud. Phishing attacks on law firms on the other hand are conducted to steal data for insider trading. Data are also stolen to allow cybercriminals to blackmail law firms.
Law firms are threatened with reputation-killing publication of highly sensitive client data if sizeable payments are not made. Since law firms hold secret documents, including potentially damaging information on their clients, it is not only the law firm that can be blackmailed. Clients are also contacted and threatened. The profits that can be made from insider trading are enormous. The data held by law firms is incredibly valuable. It is therefore no surprise that phishing attacks on law firms are increasing. Cybercriminals see law firms as perfect targets.
Last year, more than 50 law firms were targeted by Russian hackers using a spear phishing campaign. The aim of that attack was to gather information that could be used for insider trading. The group, called Oleras, attacked some of the best-known law firms operating in the United States, including Cravath Swaine & Moor LLP and Gotshal and Manges LLP.
However, while those attacks were damaging, they arguably caused less harm than the Panama Papers Breach – The largest law firm data breach of the year. That attack resulted in an astonishing 2.6 Terabytes of data being stolen by the attackers – Documents that revealed highly sensitive banking activities of criminals, politicians, athletes and businessmen and women. More than 214,000 companies had data revealed as a result of that law firm data breach.
While law firms must ensure that firewalls are in place along with a host of other cybersecurity protections to prevent their systems from being hacked, all too often data breaches start with phishing attacks on law firms. A simple email containing a link to a website is sent to attorneys’ and solicitors’ inboxes. The links are clicked and users are fooled into revealing login credentials to networks and email accounts. The credentials are captured and used to gain access to sensitive data.
Website filtering for law firms is now as essential a protection as the use of antivirus software. Antivirus software may be able to detect attempted malware installations – although it is becoming less effective in that regard – although it will do little to prevent phishing attacks.
A web filter protects law firms by preventing users from visiting malicious links in emails. A website filtering solution also prevents end users from downloading malware, or accessing websites known to carry a high risk of infection with ransomware or malware. A web filter also prevents law firm staff from accidentally visiting phishing websites when browsing the Internet. Along with a robust spam filtering solution to prevent phishing emails from being delivered, law firms can make their networks and email accounts much more secure.
Further information on recent phishing attacks on law firms, along with steps that can be taken to prevent security breaches, can be found by clicking the image below. Clicking the image will direct you to a useful phishing infographic on this website.
A law firm phone hacking incident has resulted in an Alexandria, VA attorney being sent a staggering $65,000 phone bill. The attorney’s phone system was hacked and used to make a slew of international phone calls in the middle of the night to numbers in Algeria and Serbia.
In total, 195 phone calls were made through the law firm’s phone system in just 45 minutes. Since the incident occurred in the middle of the night, no one noticed. The small law firm only employs three people, none of whom were in the office at the time.
Attorney David Chamowitz was informed by his service provider via email about the calls and the charges. This law firm phone hacking incident was not a one off. Even though the attorney changed the password on his system, he was attacked again suggesting the hacker had a backdoor into the system. To ensure that future calls were not made, the attorney has had to switch off long distance call capabilities.
The hacker responsible was unlikely to be looking to speak to friends and relatives abroad. This type of scam involves making calls to premium rate international numbers, with the hackers making money from those calls. The charges for the calls can be extortionate, as Chamowitz discovered. Many other small to medium sized businesses have been targeted by hackers and have had to foot the bill for the calls. Phone charges totaling tens of thousands of dollars can easily be racked up.
As was the case with Chamowitz, the attack occurred at a time when it was unlikely to be noticed. Calls are usually made outside of business hours, often in the middle of the night.
Flaws in security systems are exploited to gain access to voicemail systems, although more commonly, hackers take advantage of poor security controls such as default login credentials left active on voicemail systems. Small businesses may implement firewalls and a host of security measures to protect their computers from attack, yet do not realize that voicemail system hacks are also possible.
The default credentials can easily be found online via the search engines or they can be easily guessed. Usernames of ‘admin’ are common and passwords are often set to 1234.
As this law firm phone hacking incident shows, any system that can be accessed externally can be hacked. Whether that is a computer, server, router, IoT device or phone/voicemail system.
To protect against voicemail system hacks it is important to ensure that default credentials are changed and strong passwords are set. A PBX firewall should be employed and calls logs should be monitored. If there is no need for your business to make international or premium rate calls, speak to your service provider and try to block those calls. Also, consider setting the system to not permit outbound calls at certain times (outside of office hours) and disable external access to the phone system/voicemail when the office is closed.
A restaurant malware attack has resulted in the theft of the credit and debit card numbers of more than 355,000 customers, according to Krebs on Security. A breach was suspected to have occurred when credit unions and banks started to notice a flurry of fraudulent purchases. The breach was traced to the fast food restaurant chain Arbys.
While there have been numerous instances of credit card fraud reported in the past few days, the Arbys data breach was first identified in January. Industry partners contacted Arbys regarding a potential breach of credit/debit card numbers. At that point, the incident was only thought to have affected a handful of its restaurants.
The malware infection was soon uncovered and the FBI was notified, although the agency requested that Arby’s did not go public so as not to impede the criminal investigation. However, a statement has recently been released confirming that Arby’s is investigating a breach of its payment card systems.
Upon discovery of the breach, Arby’s retained the services of cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a forensic analysis. The Mandiant investigation is continuing, although rapid action was taken to contain the incident and remove the malware from Arby’s payment card systems. The investigation revealed that the incident only impacted certain corporate-owned stores. None of the franchised stores were infected with malware. Arbys has more than 3,300 stores across the United States, more than 1,000 of which are corporate-owned.
PSCU, an organization serving credit unions, was the first to identify a potential breach after receiving a list of 355,000 stolen credit card/debit card numbers from its member banks. It is currently unclear when the restaurant malware attack first occurred, although the malware is currently thought to have been actively stealing data from October 25, 2016 until January 19, 2017, when the malware was identified and removed.
This is of course not the first restaurant malware attack to have been reported in recent months. The restaurant chain Wendys suffered a similar malware attack last year. That incident also resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of payment card details before the malware was discovered and removed. Similar payment card system malware infections were also discovered by Target and Home Depot and resulted in huge numbers of card details being stolen.
Details of how the malware was installed have not been released, although malware is typically installed when employees respond to spear phishing campaigns. Malware is also commonly installed as a result of employees clicking on malicious links contained in spam emails or being redirected to malicious sites by malvertising. In some cases, malware is installed by hackers who take advantage of unaddressed security vulnerabilities.
Once malware has been installed it can be difficult to identify, even when anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are in use. As was the case with the latest restaurant malware attack, data theft was only identified when cybercriminals started using the stolen payment card information to make fraudulent purchases.
Protecting against malware attacks requires multi-layered cybersecurity defenses. Good patch management policies are also essential to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are remediated promptly. Anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions can greatly reduce the volume of messages that make it through to employees’ inboxes, while malicious links and redirects can be blocked with a web filtering solution. A little training also goes a long way. All staff members with computer access should receive anti-phishing training and should be instructed on security best practices.
Regular scans should be performed on all systems to search for malware that may have evaded anti-virus and anti-malware solutions. Since a restaurant malware attack will target payment card systems, those should be frequently scanned for malware. Rapid detection of malware will greatly reduce the damage caused.