Email hacking scheme leads to $13 million theft attempt in Pennsylvania school district

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The Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania has faced an attempted theft of $13 million in a complex scheme involving hacked email accounts, cryptocurrency and a romance scam of a wife. Florida recently widowed.

However, local government agencies have intercepted and recovered $10.3 million of the $13 million stolen from the district, according to an announcement released by the Delaware County Attorney’s Office in Pennsylvania last week.

At first, CUSD’s messaging systems were infiltrated by a hacker. The hacker then used a compromised email account to alter the bank account for district funds received by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. From there, future payments from the State Department of Education to the school district could be sent to a bank account accessible to the hacker.

The widowed Florida resident was unknowingly used as a financial mule to transfer illegally acquired money to individuals overseas through wire transfers and the purchase of cryptocurrency. She did it under the guidance of a fictional love, whom she met through an online dating platform.

While the district is grateful that most of the stolen money has been recovered, the missing $3 million still represents a significant loss, CUSD Receiver Nafis Nichols said. in a report.

“Our district is facing significant economic challenges, and we are doing our best to allocate as much money as possible to our classrooms and to provide adequate and appropriate staff. An additional $3 million can make a significant difference for our students,” said Nichols.

This money laundering scheme shows how increasingly complex cyberattacks against school districts are becoming more complex, said Amy McLaughlin, subject matter expert at the Consortium for School Networking.

McLaughlin noticed that districts using publicly visible and available build bonds can also be easily targeted in patterns similar to that seen in CUSD.

“It’s the challenge of balance – we have a public and transparent process around the government, and so we have to be additionally careful about other security elements that may seem small or contained and that may quickly become problematic,” McLaughlin said.

This hacking scheme should also be a cautionary tale for other districts and states to be more aware of when transferring funds, she said. There should also be audits in place if an account routing number has changed.

“If you have a bank account change alert and as an organization you know your bank hasn’t changed, this should be a priority alarm that goes off saying ‘Hello, you need to check this all away,'” McLaughlin said.

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