Colorado Higher Education Hit By Ransomware: What Students And Educators Need To Know

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | Aug 08, 2023 06:21 am PST

The recent cybersecurity breach at the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) underscores the ever-increasing need for robust digital safeguards, especially in the educational sector. This latest ransomware attack has not only placed CDHE in the spotlight but also impacted a vast majority of students and educators across Colorado.

Quick Overview of the Breach

Unfolding on June 19, 2023, CDHE unveiled the cyberattack through a data incident notification. Findings indicate unauthorized access to the department’s digital systems between June 11 and June 19. Critical data was at stake – from personal names and social security numbers to student IDs and intricate educational documents.

Who’s at Risk?

The reach of this breach spans a broad timeline and encompasses:

– Alumni and current attendees of public higher education establishments in Colorado from 2007-2020.

– Students of Colorado’s public high schools, tracing back from 2004-2020.

– Educators who held Colorado’s K-12 public school licenses between 2010-2014.

– Individuals engaged in the Dependent Tuition Assistance Program during 2009-2013.

– Participants of Colorado Department of Education’s progressive Adult Education Initiatives from 2013-2017.

– GED recipients within the 2007-2011 timeframe.

CDHE’s Response

To counteract the implications of this breach, CDHE has initiated complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for the affected populace.

Interestingly, while the cyberattack source remains ambiguous, prominent ransomware groups have refrained from associating with the CDHE breach, as noted by a deep dive into their online portals.

Rising Threat Landscape in Education

This incident at CDHE isn’t isolated. The recent MOVEit hack by the Cl0p ransomware group, affecting institutions including Colorado State University, further emphasizes the escalating threat. Data showcases a worrying trend – in 2022 alone, over 44 colleges and 45 school districts have reported such cybersecurity incidents, marking a significant increase from 2021’s tally of 88.

With the alarm bells ringing, national agencies like the Government Accountability Office are pressing for collaborative efforts between the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security to bolster cybersecurity defenses across educational institutions.

Protecting Your Digital Identity

For those potentially impacted, it’s crucial to monitor financial and personal accounts for suspicious activities. As educational platforms increasingly become hot targets for ransomware culprits, the need for awareness and proactive protection is more pressing than ever.

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Kevin Kirkwood
Kevin Kirkwood , Deputy CISO
August 8, 2023 2:27 pm

Following a ransomware attack in June, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) has revealed a significant data breach that has affected students, former students and educators. The breach involved unauthorized access to the Department’s systems spanning a 13-year period from 2004 to 2020. The stolen data includes sensitive information such as full names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, photocopies of government IDs, and in certain cases, police reports or complaints related to identity theft. 

Ransomware attacks, though unfortunate, provide essential learning opportunities for higher education institutions to review incident response procedures and bolster their security posture. To proactively defend against such threats, investing in cybersecurity solutions that detect malicious behavior and enable network infrastructure to block access attempts is the first step. Moreover, prioritizing elements like authentication and access controls, detection and response capabilities, and real-time monitoring is crucial in safeguarding higher education systems and preventing the confidentiality of personally identifiable information (PII).

Last edited 1 month ago by Kevin Kirkwood

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