Cybercriminals attacked Cherry Hill

February 26, 2023


Created with Collage Maker, images courtesy of BitLyft and Wikimedia

Cyberattacks have not left Cherry Hill untouched, as the 2019 Ryuk ransomware attacks showed.

Locally, the threat of cyber attacks has remained present. In 2019, staff and students of the Cherry Hill School District struggled to access their emails and google drive. Some files were corrupted, and displayed the mysterious title, “Ryuk”. 

This title is associated with a Russian cybercriminal organization. According to the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC), Ryuk uses Emotet and TrickBot trojans to infect new systems and corrupt their data. This data is then held for ransom. 

Estimates from cybersecurity experts place Ryuks’ total ransom earnings at $150 million since their emergence in 2018. At the time of the attacks in Cherry Hill, this number had only reached $3.7 million. Many school districts were impacted by Ryuk, as well as popular online schooling company K12. In 2020, an undisclosed sum was paid to Ryuk to prevent a data leak. At the time of these attacks, Cherry Hill was just a small part of the 500 US schools affected. 

The Ryuk data outage lasted from October 4th to the 10th. During this time, a 15 member team of district technology employees and outside experts worked to solve the issue. However, not much else is known about the incident. 

“There’s not a whole lot of information or specifics that I can share,” said Superintendent Joseph Meloche at a school board meeting. “Most of our systems are back up and running.” To improve security, the district has since transitioned to two-factor authentication and cloud-based email services. 

While this seems to be the most notable instance of cyber instability within the district, it is certainly not the only one. Back in 2007, one student and one East alumni were accused of hacking into protected computers. According to reports, they altered the grades of themselves and four other students. 

Given these instances of cyber attacks, it’s important to always exercise internet safety. To learn more about how to protect your data online, NJCCIC and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are helpful resources.

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