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September 26, 2022

Vice Society claims ransomware attack that hit six UK schools in Scholars’ Education Trust

The ransomware gang, noted for ruthless behaviour, appears to have leaked data from a UK school on the dark web.

By Matthew Gooding

Ransomware gang Vice Society claims to be behind an attack on a multi-academy trust that has impacted six UK schools serving 4,500 pupils. The group appears to have posted data from one of the schools on its leak site.

The attack on the Scholars’ Education Trust, revealed exclusively by Tech Monitor last week, has left staff without access to internal systems including email. It now appears that information has been stolen from the schools, with Vice Society having posted what it says are documents from the Samuel Ryder Academy, which is part of the trust, on its dark web leak site.

The nature of the information contained in the leak, or whether a ransom has been demanded, is unknown. Tech Monitor has contacted the Scholars’ Education Trust for more details, as well as data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Vice Society targets UK schools

The Scholars’ Education Trust is a multi-academy trust running six primary and secondary schools in Hertfordshire; Buntingford First School, Harpenden Academy, Priory Academy, Robert Barclay Academy, Samuel Ryder Academy and Sir John Lawes School. Between them, the schools serve more than 4,500 pupils.

Schools in the Scholars’ Education Trust are displaying this message on their websites.

The attack has left staff without access to systems including email, and since last Tuesday all the schools in the trust have displayed a message on their websites stating they are suffering from the effects of a “serious IT issue”.

“We are currently experiencing difficulty in sending and receiving emails,” the notice says. Please contact the school by telephone should you have an urgent message.”

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It now appears Vice Society is behind the incident. The group was first observed carrying out attacks last year, and most notably targeted convenience store chain Spar earlier this year in an attack which left 600 stores in the UK without access to their card machines.

While other cybercriminal gangs shy away from attacking public sector bodies like schools and hospitals, Vice Society has been noted for its ruthless behaviour in this respect. It has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on several school districts in the US, including the Manhasset Union Free School District in Long Island and healthcare providers such as the United Health Centers of San Joaquin Valley, California.

Speaking to Tech Monitor earlier this year, Steve Forbes, head of cyber product at Nominet, said Vice Society “doesn’t seem to have any ethics or morals in terms of who it is targeting”.

Read more: Hive ransomware decryption key revealed

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