Security Experts:

Thousands of School Websites Go Offline Due to Ransomware Attack on Finalsite

Thousands of school websites around the world went offline this week as a result of a ransomware attack on Finalsite, a US-based company that provides digital marketing and communications solutions to schools.

On its website, Finalsite claims that 8,000 schools across 110 countries use its services, and it launches 300 new websites every year.

Finalsite informed customers on its status page on January 4 that it had been investigating an outage, and on January 6 it revealed that the incident was caused by ransomware hitting “certain systems” in its environment.

The ransomware attack appears to have caused the thousands of school websites hosted by Finalsite to go offline. By January 6, the company had started restoring affected sites, but noted that some may still experience performance and other issues.

“We have full access to our files and data. The forensic investigation is ongoing and at this time, we have no evidence that our data or client data has been taken. If we determine otherwise through the course of the investigation, we’ll act swiftly to notify you and will take all appropriate actions,” the company said.

SecurityWeek has checked the websites of major ransomware groups, but none of them appears to have taken credit for this attack until now.

It’s not uncommon for cybercriminals to target schools with ransomware. One year ago, the FBI and CISA issued a warning following a significant increase in ransomware attacks on K-12 schools.

The agencies at the time advised educational institutions to take steps to secure their systems. However, there’s not much a school can do if they fully rely on a third-party service provider and that provider has its systems compromised, such as in the case of the Finalsite incident.

Related: Clark County Schools Reports Computer Ransomware Attack

Related: Start of School in Hartford Delayed by Ransomware Attack

Related: Large Florida School District Hit by Ransomware Attack

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.