Mum’s the word? What are these school districts doing after a recent breach?
On November 15, ABC in Chicago reported that suburban school district Township High School District 211 experienced a security breach in which outgoing emails, phone calls, and text messages had been compromised over the weekend. Parents reported receiving offensive messages, some of which were sexual.
On November 20, Patch reported that a teacher’s account in Niles Township High School District 219 had been hijacked the previous week and misused to send offensive emails to students and community members.
District 211? District 219? Were these reports connected? It appears that they were and that it wasn’t just these two districts. The Chicago Tribune reported that incidents occurred on the night of Nov. 11 in both Maine Township High School District 207 and Niles Township High School District 219. School districts’ web sites were also altered to display offensive messages, and law enforcement was investigating reports from all three districts.
And then…. silence. Law enforcement said no more and the districts did not reveal more about the incidents in terms of the security issues — they focused on denouncing the inappropriate, racist, and lewd material.
Denouncing hate speech is certainly appropriate, but how did this breach happen? And what will prevent if from happening again?
Why have the districts remained silent?
If you are a parent of a student in District 207, 211, 213, or 219 and have information about this incident, please contact databreaches.net.
DataBreaches.net was recently contacted by an individual who provided this site with additional information on the incident. According to this source, who asked to remain anonymous but who states that they were involved in the investigation, the incident involved three students at Niles who executed a credential stuffing attack — and not just on Districts 207, 211, and 219, but on a dozen or more districts in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and potentially other states.
The credential stuffing attack gave the students login credentials to multiple student and staff accounts, which they then misused to send vulgar emails and to create new accounts for themselves on the systems they accessed.
“The common theme here,” the source explained, “is the districts were using one authentication provider (mostly Google for schools) which allowed access to many other systems the students and staff use. A single compromised staff administrator level account granted access to multiple applications and opportunities to do bad things.”
The investigators did uncover the identity of the students involved in the incident, but what the districts have done in response in terms of filing charges is not known to DataBreaches.net at this point. Nor does this site know what disciplinary action the district has taken.
DataBreaches.net sent multiple inquiries about this incident to Districts 207, 211, and 219, and one inquiry to District 213. There have been no responses at all, begging the question:
What is going to prevent this from happening again and again? What have the districts done in response to prevent a recurrence?
Yes, we need to hold the kids accountable, but we also need to hold school districts accountable for weak security. Who’s holding them accountable and insisting they up their game?