Hackers release confidential data after LAUSD refuses to pay ‘insulting’ ransom

The district is partnering with law enforcement to analyze the full extent of the leak, which may include Social Security numbers and W-9 forms.

Hackers prematurely released confidential data from Los Angeles Unified School District on Saturday, Oct. 1, based on the original deadline arranged by the criminal organization Vice Society.

The release was ultimately a response to what was Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s final answer to the group’s demand for ransom—a resounding no. “What I can tell you is that the demand—any demand—would be absurd,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “But this level of demand was, quite frankly, insulting. And we’re not going to enter into negotiations with that type of entity.”

Carvalho has not yet revealed the cost of the ransom. According to a statement released a day prior to the leak, the district argued it would be a waste of money. “Paying ransom never guarantees the full recovery of data, and Los Angeles Unified believes public dollars are better spent on our students rather than capitulating to a nefarious and illicit crime syndicate,” the statement reads.

Screenshots of the data appear to reveal Social Security numbers and W-9 forms, yet extensive details have not yet been released.

“Unfortunately, as expected, data was recently released by a criminal organization,” Carvalho tweeted on Sunday. “In partnership with law enforcement, our experts are analyzing the full extent of this data release.”

LAUSD has also set up a hotline to assist those from the community who need support.

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The incident first made headlines one month ago on Sept. 3, sparking fear in smaller school districts as they learned that the second largest school district in the country had fallen victim to a growing cybercriminal organization.

“Smaller school districts are absolutely at a disadvantage,” James Turgal, vice president of Optiv’s Cyber Risk, Strategy and Transformation and former chief information officer for the FBI, told District Administration. “The smaller and mid-tier school districts, especially the K-12s, really need to band together.”

LAUSD was forced to shut down computer operations, resulting in a week of disruptions and more than 600,000 individual password resets.

Soon after the attack, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a joint advisory letter warning districts that further cyberattacks are highly anticipated.

At least 27 school districts and 28 colleges have been hacked this year, according to Brett Callow, threat analyst for Emsisoft on social media. Vice Society continues to contribute to this growing number.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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