FBI warns K12 schools of ransomware attacks via RDP

TruGrid blog image for blog FBI warns K12 schools of ransomware attacks via RDP

The FBI has issued a security alert warning K12 schools of increased “ransomware threat” during the pandemic.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation sent out a security alert to K12 schools in late June about the increase in ransomware attacks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and especially about ransomware gangs that abuse RDP connections to break into school systems. The report indicated that approximately 422 individual schools have already been affected during the first quarter of 2020.

The alert, called a Private Industry Notification, or PIN, tells schools that “cyber actors are likely to increase targeting of K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic because they represent an opportunistic target as more of these institutions transition to distance learning.”

Schools are likely to open up their infrastructure for remote staff connections, which in many cases would mean create Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) accounts on internal school systems.

Over the past two to three years, many ransomware gangs have utilized brute-force attacks or vulnerabilities in RDP to breach corporate networks and deploy file-encrypting ransomware.

However, while companies usually have resources for a professional security team to protect their remote access infrastructure and endpoints, the same is not true for K12 schools, the FBI said.

“K-12 institutions have limited resources to dedicate to network defense, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks,” the FBI said.

In order to keep safe, schools must never expose RDP over the internet and should endeavor to implement Zero Trust technologies that secure RDP. 

Reference: TruGrid Cybersecurity News – July 2020 #1