Parents of children in an Iowa school district were left severely concerned after they received SMS messages from an unknown person or persons threatening to kill students at their childrens’ schools. The messages were doubly worrying because they contained personal details about the children, all because hackers had stolen the information from a school network.
Following the receipt of a number of such messages by parents, local law enforcement and school authorities closed all schools in the district the following day. The authorities claimed that it was a difficult decision to make, but citing the safety of children as their number one priority, they felt it was necessary.
It was later discovered that there wasn’t much credibility to the threats, following the revelation of a particular hacker group’s involvement. The self-proclaimed “thedarkoverlord” group laid claim to the hack on Twitter, stating that it had led to more than 7,000 students staying home due to the threats.
The group later followed this message up with proof by releasing a local student directory, including the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of individuals.
Although the hack does raise concerns about the security of school networks, the purpose of it seems to have been more anarchic in nature than anything else. In a tweet that followed the release of the school directory, those claiming responsibility suggested that the directory could be used by sexual predators (via GrahamCluley).
While such an aim seems abhorrent, the motive for such a statement could be much more straightforward than it might otherwise seem. According to DataBreaches, other schools have also seen threats of violence against students, possibly in an attempt to get the FBI to ease off its investigation of the group. This is the same collective that previously blackmailed organizations like Larson Studios and Netflix.
This hack comes just weeks after the monumental Equifax hack which affected tens of millions of Americans and exposed the personal details of many. Although the school hack was on a much smaller scale, both continue to show that an increased interest in security at all levels of IT infrastructure is incredibly important.