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Minneapolis Students’ Private Data Leaked in Ransomware Case

The confidential documents stolen from schools and dumped online by ransomware gangs are raw, intimate and graphic. They describe student sexual assaults, psychiatric hospitalizations, abusive parents, truancy — even suicide attempts. “Please do something,” begged a student in one leaked file, recalling the trauma of continually bumping into an ex-abuser at a school in Minneapolis. Complete sexual assault case folios containing these details were among more than 300,000 files dumped online in March after the 36,000-student Minneapolis Public Schools refused to pay a $1 million ransom, the Associated Press reports. Other exposed data included medical records, discrimination complaints, Social Security numbers and contact information of district employees.


Rich in digitized data, the nation’s schools are prime targets for far-flung criminal hackers, who are assiduously locating and scooping up sensitive files that not long ago were committed to paper in locked cabinets. “In this case, everybody has a key,” said cybersecurity expert Ian Coldwater, whose son attends a Minneapolis high school. Often strapped for cash, districts are grossly ill-equipped not just to defend themselves but to respond diligently and transparently when attacked, especially as they struggle to help kids catch up from the pandemic and grapple with shrinking budgets. Months after the Minneapolis attack, administrators have not delivered on their promise to inform individual victims. Unlike for hospitals, no federal law exists to require this notification from schools.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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