What teachers and parents should know about ransomware

In the face of continued uncertainty related to the pandemic, families like mine prepared for a return to school that still looked a little bit more like normal this year. For many parents, teachers and caregivers who struggled through a year of remote learning, with all of its online homework assignments and Zoom classes, this has been a major relief.

In my case, and admittedly more so for my superhero wife, last year involved the all-but-impossible task of wrangling 6- and 8-year-old children in front of a screen two to three times a day and somehow keeping them there through bathroom break requests and hunger pangs that only conveniently cropped up during online learning sessions.

It also meant enforcing dedicated “asynchronous learning” time for children who desperately need synchronous learning routines alongside their friends to conform to normal classroom behavior (i.e. “If my friends are paying attention, maybe I should too”). Now throw in the added complication that our children’s school had no way of restricting access to apps or websites such as YouTube on their school-issued devices, and the parenting intensity meter just about redlines.    

But even with a (hopefully) easier school year on the horizon, the tech-related headaches may not be over just yet. Recent research shows that cybercriminals started aggressively targeting K-12 schools during the pandemic. According to federal government data, schools accounted for 57 percent of all ransomware attacks this past fall, doubling from the previous spring and summer. This past spring, a survey of parents of school-age children in the U.S. and found that 55 percent of them have experienced cyberattacks on their schools while their kids were attending.

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