Data breaches impacting schools hit record numbers during pandemic

WASHINGTON — Ransomware attacks targeting schools and universities are happening more often.

Since 2005, there have been 2,691 data breaches involving K-12 schools and universities, according to a report by Comparitech, a consumer research organization. Researchers say these incidents compromised nearly 32 million individual records.

Experts say while ransomware attacks aren’t new, these incidents are still posing a major threat to schools.

“It’s a huge, huge concern, especially with children’s data. We think how sensitive that is, and the potential repercussions in years to come as well for them,” said Rebecca Moody, head of data research at Comparitech.

The findings show most individual records were compromised during data breaches at colleges and universities.

Researchers said one of the biggest spikes in school data breaches occurred during the height of the pandemic. They say nearly 3 million records were affected in 2020 alone.

Experts are now encouraging schools and universities to be more transparent about these incidents.

“I think it’s that lack of clarity that’s a bit of a concern now. Because I appreciate a lot of universities and education facilities, they don’t want to say they’ve been hacked because they feel it opens them up to future attacks,” said Moody. “But equally, if they have been attacked and data has been stolen or potentially stolen, as a parent, employee, child, you should be given that full disclosure as to what’s happened to your data.”

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