LSU’s Stephenson Technologies Corporation, state agencies respond to school cyber-attacks

    In response to what’s being called “the most pervasive ransomware attacks in the state’s history,” Stephenson Technologies Corporation—LSU’s applied research affiliate—is working with several statewide agencies to resolve a series of cyber-attacks that happened this week when hackers injected malware into the parish networks of several Louisiana school systems.

    Gov. John Bel Edwards recently declared a state of emergency and activated a cyber-incident response plan involving STC, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the Office of Technology Services and the Louisiana National Guard Cyber Team.

    Ransomware—typically spread through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website—is designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid, usually in a digital currency like BitCoin. 

    Hackers know local government agencies like school districts often don’t have the systems to protect against cyber-attacks, making them prime targets, says Jeff Moulton, executive director of the Stephenson National Center for Security Research.

    To prevent future cyber-attacks, Moulton recommends the following:

    • Stop, think and click before opening any email—if it doesn’t look right, don’t open it
    • Implement a two-factor authentication system
    • Have a manual back-up system
    • Parents and guardians should give out as little personal information on their children as possible
    • Parents and guardians should write a letter to the three credit agencies to lock and freeze their children’s credit so predators cannot access their children’s social security numbers
    • Encrypt any data you have stored in archives or databases that is not currently in use

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