Paulette Chaffee says California school districts need to heed the warnings from the October hacking of LA Unified School District and prepare for cyberattacks

FULLERTON, CA, USA, November 21, 2022 / — The threat of cyberattacks is real, affecting all walks of life. Lifelong educator Paulette Chaffee says this threat has unfortunately crossed into California’s public school system, as an October hack of the Los Angeles Unified School District proved one of the most significant breaches in education ever.

The Russian hacking group Vice Society claimed they were responsible for the ransomware attack that took down LAUSD’s access to their computer systems, applications, and emails. After the school district missed a deadline of October 4 to pay the group’s ransom demand, Vice Society published a trove of stolen information to the dark web.

A recent report from Tech Crunch says among this data were people’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, tax forms, and details of passports. It also includes other confidential information such as legal and contract documents, bank account details, conviction reports, health information, and even psychological assessments for students.

Any cyberattack is scary, Paulette Chaffee says, but this one is particularly so, especially since it’s so close to home. In the wake of last month’s cyberattack on the LAUSD, many people are questioning just how prepared California’s public schools are for the increasing threat of cyberattacks.

One of the big issues is that not every school district has cybersecurity professionals on its staff. Even the state’s Department of Education doesn’t employ any of these professionals.

Larger school districts such as LAUSD are lucky to have the resources to hire some security professionals, and even they aren’t immune to attacks.

Terry Loftus, who serves as the assistant superintendent for the San Diego County of Education, recently commented for CalMatters that the “vast majority of districts” in the state aren’t able to hire even one member whose focus is cybersecurity threats.

While the state DOE provides resources and best practices on data security for every school district, each school and district decides what measures to take.

Paulette Chaffee says this leaves many school districts vulnerable to attack, especially disadvantaged districts already facing a mountain of challenges.

As a lifelong educator, Paulette Chaffee understands the importance of equity in education, and the ability to prepare for the increasing threat of cyberattacks falls into the category of equitable education.

There are more than 1,000 charter schools and school districts in California, and all need to recognize the genuine threat cyberattacks pose. An excellent place to start is to implement recommendations by the grassroots organization, the Center for Internet Security.

Even smaller, suburban, and rural school districts need to understand that they could be the target of cyberattacks — even if a larger district such as LAUSD might seem more enticing to hackers.

Paulette Chaffee warns school districts that the more they digitize their operations, the bigger the threat of cyberattacks becomes. The best way to prevent a cyberattack is to implement best practices and dedicate the time and resources necessary to do so.

Jessica Brown
Mercury News Media
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