The Cyberhack of Columbia Falls School District: A Cautionary Tale for SMBs

 

A hacking organization called The Dark Overlord Solutions threatened schools and families in Flathead Valley, Montana, over the past few weeks, sending appalling electronic messages to school administrators and contacting families in the area with extortion demands and death threats.

The cybercriminals infiltrated the valley’s Columbia Falls school district server and stole personal information, as well as addresses and medical records of past and present students, staff and parents. This caused several schools in the district to close for three days before reopening under heightened security.

The Dark Overlord is a notorious hacker responsible for several high-profile breaches including one perpetrated on Netflix last year. The organization infiltrated a Netflix server, stole episodes of a popular show and threatened to release them early unless payments were made via electronic currency. A company associated with Netflix paid, but afterward the group released the episodes anyway.

That the group attacked a relatively small school district is a sign of the times: cybercriminals increasingly are targeting smaller organizations.

The Flathead Valley incident is unique in that the Dark Overlord group usually attacks larger targets with hundreds of thousands or millions of personal records. Security experts believe the organization is responsible for several prominent ransomware attacks in the healthcare sector, stealing millions of hospital records and social security numbers and trying to sell them back to institutions and individuals.

That the group attacked a relatively small school district is a sign of the times: cybercriminals increasingly are targeting smaller organizations. Today some 70 percent of attacks target small businesses, for example. And the threat is growing, particularly with ransomware attacks– a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money – literally, a ransom – is paid. To wit, the 2017 SonicWall Annual Threat Report claims that ransomware attacks exploded from 3.8 million in 2015 to 638 million in 2016.

Hackers increasingly are taking advantage of smaller enterprises without heavy in-house IT departments and sophisticated systems capable of keeping pace with evolving cyber threats including viruses, spyware, worms and service attacks. Quite simply, in small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and organizations, cybercriminals see soft targets and easy money.

SMBs have a remedy in managed security services like those provided by TPx, including managed IT and business continuity services, all backed up by a state-of-the-art security operations center (SOC) staffed by a team of security analysts with deep military and intelligence backgrounds.

TPx also offers a Unified Threat Management solution that consolidates network security –including firewalls with anti-virus and anti-spyware protection, intrusion detection, web filtering and more – as a comprehensive and dynamic threat prevention solution.

TPx’s Managed Firewall service in particular provides a first line of defense against intrusions and other network threats. By using a hardware-based architecture to filter inbound and outbound traffic, a network firewall from TPx blocks malicious traffic before it can consume a company’s network bandwidth or last-mile circuit. It also protects the company’s network against unauthorized users, dangerous protocols, and common network-layer attacks without degrading network or application performance.

We developed these solutions so customers can concentrate on their strategic plans for business success, knowing they are protected by the most powerful security options available. These kinds of TPx solutions are surprisingly affordable for SMBs, which can no longer ignore escalating cybercrime aimed squarely at them. Contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you rest easier at night and focus on your core business during the day.

About the Author

Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for ITx Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Workstation and Servers Management, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.