A Mississippi school district pays $150,000 to cybercriminals to remove compromised data

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A group that calls itself “Grief” breached the school’s servers through a ransomware attack on May 28. “The network of Warren Vicksburg School was screwed and now we have about 10 GB of data from file servers, including internal company documents and personal information,” the group’s website read before it was removed. “According to our rules we are publishing this data step by step in case if this company will keep silence (sic).”

A group of cybercriminals hacked the Vicksburg Warren School District’s servers last month and claimed to have employees’ personal information and internal school documents.

While the district declined to answer whether it paid a ransom to the group to prevent the release or sale of personal information, Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the antivirus company Emisoft, said when the cybercriminals remove the threat to do so from the hacked entity’s webpage, “it’s usually an indicator they are in negotiations or have been paid.”

A district spokesperson said Thursday they are “working to determine what information might have been affected.” A Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed the district had contacted the department in recent weeks about the attack. George Co. School District also made the department aware it had been attacked in recent weeks. It’s unclear if the attacks were carried out by the same group.

Most employees in Vicksburg Warren School District first heard of the breach Friday morning, two weeks after it occurred and after Mississippi Today asked the district why teachers had not been informed their personal information may have been compromised.

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