Sep 9, 2022 - Technology

Ransomware attack leaves L.A. schools racing to recover

Illustration of a backpack with digital glitching.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Nearly one week into a ransomware attack, the Los Angeles Unified School District is still working to bring its systems back up to full capacity.

Driving the news: LAUSD said Monday a ransomware attack targeted its IT systems over the weekend, but because it was detected early, only some unspecified business operations were affected. The district has held classes as scheduled, and employee health care and payroll services were not affected.

  • But LAUSD said on Wednesday that recovering from a ransomware attack last weekend has still "proven more challenging than initially anticipated."
  • Resetting passwords for students and employees across the district remains the school district's biggest hurdle as it staggers when everyone gets to reset their passwords.
  • LAUSD has received help from the FBI, the Department of Education and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency during its response.
  • The school district said Thursday it would establish an independent task force to review its previous system audits and better understand what went wrong.

The bigger picture: A ransomware attack against the country's second-largest school district has set off alarm bells about the cybersecurity threats educational organizations face at the start of each school year.

Between the lines: Not all school districts that face a ransomware attack are as well resourced as LAUSD, meaning smaller districts could have even more difficulties responding to ransomware.

  • Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa ended up paying a ransom to hackers in July to regain access to its systems, for example.
  • CISA is expected to release a congressionally mandated report this month about the threats facing K-12 schools that will provide recommendations for ways to better secure schools.

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