Nearly 1,000 US schools impacted by ransomware in 2021 — so far

A photo of two children on a bench, looking over textbooks and a shared laptop.
Photo by Mary Taylor on

Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports that a study from Emsisoft shows nearly 1,000 schools impacted by ransomware attacks across more than 70 school districts in the United States, a significant increase over the previous year. Given the onslaught of ransomware attacks this year, it’s hardly surprising, but the number is still hard to swallow.

In the 2018-2019 school year (the latest year for which statistics are available), the National Center for Education Statistics reported there were over 98,000 schools in the United States, meaning roughly one percent of all schools have been affected this year alone.

Although most schools don’t pay up, or pay very little, there’s still a lot at stake even when schools are able to recover quickly. NBC News’ Kevin Collier reported in September that hackers have released personal data about students from over 1,000 schools in 2021 alone, and this data includes sensitive health information, academic records, and personal identifiers like Social Security Numbers, which “can set up a child for a lifetime of potential identity theft.”

We all know that no computer system is fully secure, but the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has published reference materials for schools to learn about ransomware prevention and recovery. I hope that stories like this one from Motherboard will encourage more school IT staff and administrators to take advantage of available resources to protect their students. Maybe we can start driving down attack statistics in 2022.