Three Democratic senators requested a federal auditing group look into how the national government assists local school districts in fighting the scourge of ransomware.

In a letter dated December 16, Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz, and Jackie Rosen, D-Nev., requested the Government Accountability Office look into “efforts by Education, DHS, and other relevant federal agencies to assist school districts in securing themselves from cyber threats and the effectiveness of these efforts.”

The letter notes recent ransomware attacks against school districts in the senators’ home states and beyond, a problem the senators note is exacerbated by the increased use of computers in COVID-19-era telelearning.

“In response to the pandemic, many K-12 schools shifted to offering some form of remote education, increasing their dependence on laptops, wireless internet access, and cameras and microphones,” the letter reads. “At the same time, potential threats from cyberattacks remain serious and prevalent,” The senators points to school districts in New Hampshire,
Nevada and Arizona, as among those to recently report instances of ransomware attacks.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, released an alert about increased cyber-attacks targeting the US K-12 educational sector.

Lack of coordination within elementary education has also been a challenge in response. In October 2020, the Global Resilience Foundation (GRF) – a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Council of ISACs – soft-launched its Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Security Information Exchange, or K12 SIX for short. It’s the first-ever ISAC specifically created with local school districts in mind.