Hackers demand up to $40 million in ransom from Broward schools

April 1, 2021

Ransomware attacks have been occurring more frequently over the past few years, and one sector that has been extremely impacted is education. Universities and places of higher education store personal data of tens of thousands of students each, which makes them more prone to ransom attacks. 

According to school cyber-security expert Doug Levin, children’s data is often valuable to thieves because they can establish credit using their names without anyone noticing.

Recently, hackers targeted Broward County schools, initially demanding $40 million in ransom. They lowered it to $15 million and then $10 million, showing signs that they would negotiate even for paltry sums of money. 

An anonymous district representative offered up $500,000, which appeared to have ended negotiations, although the contents of this negotiation remain unknown to the public. 

The hacker gained access to data detailing the school’s revenue, which the hacker claimed was over $4 billion, and estimated $40 million as a starting price in the ransomware negotiation. The anonymous district representative argued that being a public, tax-payer funded school, the best offer would be $500,000, which appeared to end the conversation.

The school districts claim they have “no intention of paying a ransom,” meaning they would be less prone to ransomware hangers in the future. However, the contents of the transcript are only known to the school district.

However, Koch’s office did not respond to questions about why the $500,000 figure was chosen. Under district policy, $500,000 is the maximum the district can pay without School Board approval in a public meeting.