WASHINGTON (WFXR) — Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) wants more cybersecurity for school systems after a ransomware attack on a northern Virginia school district.

The ransomware attack hit Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in the Commonwealth with more than 200,000 students and 24,000 staff. The ransomware attack involved the theft of protected information.

In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Warner said the U.S. Department of Education should develop guidance and best practices for K-12 schools and high education institutions.

“A ransomware attack on a school system in normal times can be disruptive and costly; in the context of a global public health emergency, with unprecedented reliance on remote learning, it is debilitating. Sophisticated cyber-attacks and more opportunistic forms of malware, like ransomware, are widespread today and require sustained vigilance. Defending against these persistent attacks requires a consistent and holistic approach. The public sector is particularly at risk given constrained state and local budgets.

“I recommend providing schools with guidance that includes awareness campaigns, risk management, threat mitigation, cybersecurity posture reviews, and resiliency. Awareness campaigns for both educators and students can focus on the importance of recognizing threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and social engineering methods. Regular evaluations can determine the effectiveness of awareness campaigns to address any gaps. Threat mitigation includes developing sufficient safeguards to ensure data security and access control. Detection capabilities are also needed to continuously monitor for anomalies and cybersecurity events. Schools should review these capabilities, plus their readiness to respond and recover from attacks. For example, tabletop exercises can validate processes and test procedures used before, during, and after an attack. Cyber resiliency ensures systems have an ability to continue operating in case of attack, while full restoration takes place. Many of these objectives will require new funding from Congress, particularly in the wake of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on school system budgets.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Read the full letter below or at this link.

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