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Feds anticipate ransomware attacks against schools could increase as new year begins

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(NEW YORK) -- The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said in a new warning they anticipate ransomware attacks could increase as the new school year begins.

"The FBI, CISA, and the MS-ISAC anticipate attacks may increase as the 2022/2023 school year begins and criminal ransomware groups perceive opportunities for successful attacks," the joint bulletin released Tuesday said.

CISA is the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

The warning is timely -- one of the nation's largest school districts, the Los Angeles Unified School Department, fell victim to a ransomware attack over the weekend.

Law enforcement warns that smaller school districts are the most vulnerable because they have the least amount of resources to prevent an attack.

"School districts with limited cybersecurity capabilities and constrained resources are often the most vulnerable; however, the opportunistic targeting often seen with cyber criminals can still put school districts with robust cybersecurity programs at risk. K-12 institutions may be seen as particularly lucrative targets due to the amount of sensitive student data accessible through school systems or their managed service providers," the bulletin says.

Specifically, the FBI and CISA said they are seeing activity against schools from one particular group called the Vice Society "disproportionately targeting the education sector with ransomware attacks."

The tradecraft of Vice Society actors, officials said, has been identified "through FBI investigations as recently as September 2022."

The LAUSD superintendent said on Monday the group is associated with the LAUSD ransomware attack.

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