Latest threat to schools could cost thousands

The most recent threats to schools are coming from faceless criminals: Cyber attackers. Subscribe to WPXI: Connect with WPXI online: Download our FREE apps:

WASHINGTON, Pa. — It's just another threat to schools, and this one could cost a district and taxpayers thousands of dollars.

But the most recent threats are coming from faceless criminals. Cyber attackers are hitting schools.

"I think the biggest wakeup call for all of us was … I think it was when Baltimore, they were hijacked, if you will, for I believe $18 million," Washington School District Superintendent James Konrad said. "I think at that point, the entire country started to become a little bit more aware."

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Baltimore is one of hundreds of schools hit by cybercriminals this year. Its school information was held ransom until it paid up.

The attacks seem to be getting worse.

The cybersecurity firm Armor reported 15 attacks as the new school year started. Two of them happened at schools in eastern Pennsylvania.

Konrad said it was a combination of school attacks and the attack on the city of Washington in May that made them take action.

"We realized as a school district we're vulnerable, as other businesses and even government offices on that, too," Konrad said.

The city of Washington confirmed it paid $25,000 to the attackers to get its systems back online. Konrad said that's money his and many school systems can't afford to lose.

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"I don't want to miss opportunities and resources for our kids," Konrad said.

Congress is taking action on this, too. Both the House and Senate have taken up a bill that would create response teams to help private and public entities defend against cyberattacks. It's expected to be signed into law in the next few months.