LAUSD hack: A criminal group is threatening to release sensitive data if the county doesn’t pay a ransom

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — An international hacking syndicate claiming responsibility for a cyberattack that forced a shutdown of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s computer systems has given the district a deadline of Monday to pay a ransom or the organization will release undisclosed information that she allegedly received in the hack.

In a dark web post spotted and reprinted by Brett Callow of cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, hacker syndicate Vice Society listed LAUSD as one of “our partners” and stated, “The papers will be available by London time on April 4. October 2022 published at 12:00”

London is eight hours ahead of Los Angeles so the deadline would be Monday afternoon.

The contribution gave no indication of what information would be collected or made public.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho admitted last week the district received a ransom note from the group responsible for the Labor Day weekend hack – which he declined to name.

“We can acknowledge … that there has been communication from this actor (hacker) and we have acted on it without engaging in any type of negotiation,” he told reporters.

“Against this background, we can acknowledge at this point that a financial claim was made by this company. We have not responded to this request.”

He did not provide any specific information about the claim.

Carvalho told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the county would not pay the ransom or negotiate with the hackers.

“What I can tell you is that the demand – any demand – would be absurd,” he told the Times. “But that request was, frankly, insulting. And we will not enter into negotiations with this type of company.”

The district issued a statement Friday afternoon acknowledging the threatened information repository and said it is “working diligently with investigators and law enforcement to determine what information was compromised and who owns it.”

After discovering the hack, LAUSD officials took the extraordinary step of shutting down most of their computer systems while they worked to assess the full extent of the cyber breach. The systems were then slowly brought back online.

Carvalho previously said the hackers appeared to have placed a number of digital “tripwires” that could have crippled more systems, causing the district to be wary of bringing computers back online.

No classes or other district operations were affected by the cyberattack, officials said. However, students and staff have been forced to reset their district passwords – a monumental task for the country’s second largest school district.

County officials previously said the attack temporarily compromised the LAUSD website and email system. However, officials said staff health care and payroll were not affected, nor did the hack affect school safety and emergency mechanisms.

It was unclear whether receiving a ransom note weeks after the initial attack was an indication that the hackers were, or might be, gaining access to more sensitive information.

Carvalho said last week officials did not believe highly sensitive information was accessed.

“This entity touched our MiSiS (My Integrated Student Information) system, which contains student information,” Carvalho said. “To the best of our knowledge at this time … we believe that some of the data that was accessed may contain the names of some students, may contain some level of attendance data, but most likely does not contain any personally identifiable information or very sensitive health information or information.” to the social security number.”

He said there was no indication sensitive employee information was accessed.

“This is the sad but new reality we are facing,” Carvalho told reporters. “We’re trying to understand, on the one hand, how the breach took place – was it human error, meaning someone unknowingly responded to a phishing email that allowed unauthorized access, or was it a systemic error on the part of a third party, connected to our system, who opened the door?”

In their Friday statement, county officials said: “To our school community and our partners, we will update you when we have relevant information and, where appropriate, notify you if your personal information is affected. We also expect to provide credit monitoring services, where appropriate, to data subjects.

“…Los Angeles Unified remains adamant that dollars must be used to fund students and education. Paying a ransom never guarantees full data recovery, and Los Angeles Unified believes that public dollars are better spent on our students than to a nefarious and capitulating illegal crime syndicate. We continue to make strides toward full operational resiliency for multiple core information technology services.”

After the hack, the district contacted federal officials and requested the White House to mobilize a response from the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, according to LAUSD.

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Copyright © 2022 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. LAUSD hack: A criminal group is threatening to release sensitive data if the county doesn’t pay a ransom

Laura Coffey

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