What are school districts in South Florida, Treasure Coast doing to prevent cybercrimes?

Hackers demand $40M from Broward County Public Schools
Posted at 1:01 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 18:41:15-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Cybersecurity is at the forefront of just about every company and agency seeking to protect their data from hackers.

Given their large quantities of personal data and access to funds, school districts have not been immune to being targets of cybercrimes.

Reports show a ransomware group hacked the Broward County Public Schools last month and demanded $40 million to prevent personal information about students and teachers from being made public.

The school system said they have no intention of paying the ransom.

Cybersecurity expert David King
Cybersecurity expert David King urges companies to invest in cloud security to back up their files.

The city of Stuart was hacked in April 2019, but they did not pay the ransom because their system was backed up.

David Dyess, the city manager of Stuart, offers advice for companies and computer users.

"Have yourself a quality scanner that's scanning not only for viruses but for malware software that can come in through your email or over the internet," Dyess said.

Local cybersecurity expert David King said it is critical to have a backup plan.

"With the school getting hacked and them demanding like $40 million, something astronomical, literally, if the school had cloud security in place, they could just roll back to the previous day, and then restore from that backup," King said.

So, how secure is personal data being stored at school districts in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast?

School cybersecurity
School districts are using a variety of tools to fight against hackers from accessing their data.

Palm Beach County

The Palm Beach County School District says they deploy a defense in depth security strategy and have a cybersecurity incident response team in case of activity detection.

St. Lucie County

In a statement to WPTV NewsChannel 5, St. Lucie County Public Schools said they have "multiple layers of safety protocols in place to mitigate computer security breaches." However, school spokeswoman Lydia Martin did not elaborate further.

Okeechobee County

Dylan Tedders, the assistant superintendent for administrative services in Okeechobee County, said they work with "third-party groups that provide best practices regarding protecting this information."

Tedders said this includes an information protocol for protecting their database information.

"I would believe Broward County thought they were taking every precaution also. We hope to learn more about that incident to better prepare our systems and responses," Tedders said.

With technology always changing, he said they have to stay diligent with protecting their database systems.