Gov. Burgum: ‘We are under attack’

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 5:39 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - While kicking off his Innovative Education Summit, Governor Doug Burgum, R-N.D., gave a stark warning about the cyber threats schools are facing.

“These are state-sponsored attacks coming from North Korea, from Russia, from China. And if you think I’m making that up or it’s some kind of conspiracy theory, please learn more. Because today, war is actually cyberwar, and we are under attack,” Burgum said.

As many prepare for another launch of distance learning this fall, cyber security is becoming a main concern.

Since schools moved online in March, there’s been a dramatic increase in cyber attacks on the districts. At the state level, s concerns are already a reality. A nearly 1200% increase in attacks statewide in just a few months.

“We’ve got military. We’ve Bank of North Dakota. We’ve got all of these things. We are a prime rich target. And this is not somebody in the basement hacking. These are state-sponsored attacks,” Burgum said.

While technology has opened the door for education to continue, it’s also opened the door for hackers. But why go after the schools?

“Large populations of anything tend to be large targets simply because the larger the population, the easier it is to find holes in the environment,” said Shawn Riley, North Dakota ITD.

In May and June, the state’s IT Department reported a more than 1400% jump in school information being found on the dark web.

And with a heavier and heavier reliance on technology for schools, the issue isn’t a one-semester issue.

“We are still going to continue to have this problem, and we definitely need to be getting some of this technology out there that helps defend all of us,” Riley said.

In recent months, hackers have already used teacher’s information to file fake unemployment claims. Riley said a statewide platform would require at least 35 more employees and $4 million a biennium.

But right now, some schools have received services from ITD and Cares Act dollars to improve their defenses.

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