Parents of Huntsville City Schools students have the right to ask the school system what type of data was compromised by the ransomware attack that closed the system this week, a security expert says. “Was it my child’s? Was it mine? Was it none of the above? All of the above? That’s very reasonable,” former U.S. Attorney Jay Town said Tuesday.
The 24,000-student school system said it is working to “determine if any or what information may have been compromised” by the computer system break-in it announced Monday.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation also said Tuesday that it is on the case, and the bureau has a large operation on Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal that includes cybersecurity experts. “Please emphasize how lucky and fortunate we are to have the FBI footprint we have here in Huntsville,” Town said.
Town is now a vice president and general counsel at Gray Analytics, a cybersecurity risk management company in Huntsville. After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year, he helped form Gray Analytics’ unit that investigates ransomware and malware attacks.
“Ransomware can happen as easily as a click event,” Town said. “Someone clicks on a link or reply to an email, and they think it’s Lee Roop at Al.com but it’s really lee roop @ al.net. As soon as (the click) goes through, it connects the two servers and they’re in. Or it can happen through hacking.”
Hackers search networks for the most valuable information they can find, Town said. “Intellectual property or your patient records if you’re a hospital or your personal information if you’re a school, not just of the students, but the teachers and parents.
“Think about all the forms you sign as a parent,” Town said. “Your home address, all of those things, can be sold on the Dark Web.”
Town said individuals can contact commercial identity theft protection companies to help them understand their personal exposure and ways to protect themselves online.
“There are services out there that find your information on the Dark Web and can at least alert you to what it is,” Town said. “For information (such as) your Social Security number, there’s little you can do about it. But if it’s your bank account number or your routing number or your credit card number, those are things that can change.” Town said these services can “give you some peace of mind to know what’s out there, and also they can help you fix it.”
But he said the truth is, “Most of us have our information on the Dark Web. It’s just how it is. Around half of all Americans have some personal, identifiable information on the Dark Web now.”
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