Hollywood Hackers Target Schools with Threats of Violence and Ransom Demands

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It’s not often that a school district in Montana or Iowa finds itself connected to a Hollywood studio, but these entities have all become targets for an aggressive hacker group that demands ransom for stolen data.

The name Dark Overlord is notorious throughout the data security world. This international hacker group has claimed credit for many data thefts including the recent attacks on Hollywood entertainment companies including Netflix and Line 204. According to the Miami Herald, Dark Overlord is also stealing patient records from health clinics all over the country.

Attacks on Schools

It is this attack on schools that has prompted the US Department of Education (DoE) to issue a special advisory warning school districts to strengthen their data security. It also included assurances that the attacks were being investigated by the FBI.

In Flatbush County, Mont., Dark Overlord demanded a $150,000 ransom according to multiple news reports published in September 2017. Of elevated concern were the threats made to parents. The texts suggested extreme violence, and schools were temporarily shut down.

On October 2, 2017, an Iowa school student directory was leaked online after ransom demands were not met. Parents started receiving threatening text messages, and again, schools were closed for a day.

On social media Dark Overlord boasts that more Hollywood studio hacks will be revealed. It also said that the group had two universities in its crosshairs which indicates that education targets may have spread to encompass higher education.

Data Risks

For parents and students, the risks to personal data are high. Many school districts demand a great deal of student information including Social Security numbers and medical files. Records of health issues or special education needs could be especially damaging if leaked in the student’s community.

To help protect your child’s records, provide the least amount of information possible. For instance, does the school really need to know your child’s Social Security number? And if so, for what purpose? Ask the school how your student’s information is gathered, used, and disposed of and whether it is being stored securely.

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