Entire Montana School District Shut Down in Response to Hacker Threats

Brian Erickson | September 19, 2017

There are many different types of hackers out there with various purposes and motives. Some are just out to make a quick buck and others are working to assist organizations to improve their security. Although, one of the most malicious types of hackers are those seeking to wreak havoc, along with their schemes to make money. These hackers cause numerous issues, upset, and damages, and they often seem to enjoy doing so. We see these kinds of hackers infiltrate organizations and then flaunt it or toy with those that they breach. We see some of the most damaging or shocking types of cyber attacks stemming from these ill-intentioned hackers. In another incident involving this breed, a school district in Montana was attacked by a group called The Dark Overlord, and the perpetrators had then even sent graphic threats to parents.

The Reports of the Attack

According to reports, over 30 public and private classes in Flathead Valley had been canceled due to several schools receiving cyber threats, which resulted in over 15,000 students staying home from school. The classes had been shut down from Thursday to Monday, and authorities recommended that the schools return to usual operations on Tuesday. The hackers had sent a ransom note to the school regarding information that they had exfiltrated last week. This data included details like names, medical records, and addresses from past and present students, as well as parents and faculty members. After this, the hackers had sent the ransom note to the school, as well as began sending graphic threats to individuals. No information has been released regarding what was contained in the threats. Although, the ransom note was threatening enough, as it referenced the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as included some redacted information claimed to be personal data of students from the hack. Of course, hackers often employ these tactics as a way to convince victims to pay ransoms, and they are frequently empty threats, but it is completely understandable for the school to take the threat seriously. It was a smart move to investigate the incident further before having students return. According to other reports, the hackers were also able to gain access to security cameras in the Columbia Falls School District.

This is not the first time that The Dark Overlord has made an appearance. They have been linked to and investigated in many other cyber attacks, such as the HBO and Netflix incidents. Reports from the recent school incident say that the suspect is believed to be from Britain, and they are apparently on an international watchlist and not permitted to enter the United States.

Remaining Vigilant with Security to Prevent Cyber Attacks

Cyber security is a proposition of extreme importance these days. The massive number of technologies we employ in daily activities puts us in the position of having to also ensure that they are defended. Attackers continue to develop new ways to breach our various networks and systems, and we have to parallel their evolution to stay properly protected. Fortunately, there are many modern tools and services that can help organizations to prevent cyber attacks. Intelligence is used to proactively defend from threats, monitoring allows an organization to watch over networks and systems in real time, and the basics of antivirus and firewalls can prevent most common threats. All of these implements need to be frequently reviewed and evaluated for weaknesses to ensure that these are rapidly addressed. Otherwise, hackers can gain the upper hand by exploiting overlooked vulnerabilities. Cyber security is a fluctuating proposition, and organizations need to maintain it as such. Massive Alliance offers numerous tools and services that can help organizations to prevent cyber attacks.

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Avid documenter of all things risk. Passionate about protecting people, property, and performance (PPPP) against risks. Enjoys advanced technology-led resilience solutions which identify relevant threats, warn those affected, and prescribe what action to take.