L.A. Unified School District forced to change passwords for 540,000 students and 70,000 district workers. Ransomware encrypts data and won't unlock it until a ransom is paid. So far, in 2022, 26 U.S. school districts, including LA and 24 colleges and universities hit by attacks.

FREMONT, CA: A ransomware attack targeting the massive L.A. school district initiated an unprecedented shutdown of its computer systems as schools increasingly discover themselves vulnerable to breaches. The cyber attack on the L.A. Unified School District chimed alarms across the nation, from discussions with the White House and the National Security Council after the first indications of ransomware were uncovered late Saturday night to mandated password modifications for 540,000 students and 70,000 district workers.

Though the attack utilized technology that encrypts data and won't unlock it until a ransom is paid, the district's superintendent said no direct demand for money was made. Schools in U.S.'s second-largest district opened as planned on Tuesday. Such attacks have become a rising menace to U.S. schools, with numerous high-profile incidents registered since last year as pandemic-forced dependence on technology augments the impact. And ransomware gangs have in the past intended significant attacks on U.S. holiday weekends when they know I.T. teams will be unavailable.

The official spokesperson said the school district did not pay the ransom but would not get into particulars on what might have been pilfered or sabotaged and what systems were impacted by the infringement. The White House's reaction to the L.A. attack reflects a national security concern. Seventy-one percent of Americans say cyberattacks from other nations are a significant threat to the country.

Officials believe the L.A. attack developed internationally and have recognized three potential countries from which it may have come. So far, in 2022, 26 U.S. school districts, including LA and 24 colleges and universities, have been hit by ransomware attacks. With victims declining to pay to have their data unlocked, many cybercriminals rather utilize the same technology to embezzle sensitive information and demand extortion payments. At least 31 schools hit in 2022 had data robbed and uploaded online, and noted that eight school districts had been attacked since August. A ransomware attack in Albuquerque's biggest school district compelled schools to close for two days in January. Baltimore City's reaction to a 2019 hit on its computer servers cost 18 million USD.