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Maze ransomware goes on a K-12 tear

Actors using the Maze ransomware are claiming credit for a recent string of attacks against large public school districts across the United States, just as students and teachers are returning to their mostly virtual learning environments. Last Friday, the school system in Fairfax County, Virginia, which enrolls nearly 200,000 students, reported that it had been compromised by Maze, which posted a file containing stolen data on a website it uses to extort its victims into paying. While Fairfax County Public Schools officials said the incident has not affected its remote learning services, it occurred days after similar attacks against the public school organizations in Toledo, Ohio, and Clark County, Nevada. Katie Nickels, the director of intelligence at the information security firm Red Canary, said there's a “special place in hell for ransomware operators who attack hospitals or schools.” Benjamin Freed has the story on StateScoop.

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Penn State selects a new CIO

Pennsylvania State University on Thursday announced Donald Welch as the university’s new vice president of information technology and chief information officer. Welch, who has served as the university’s interim vice president for information technology and chief information officer since July 2019, will take over the position permanently beginning Oct. 1. Welch's appointment is a critical one as universities increasingly look to their technology leadership during the pandemic. According to a study by Pew Research in April, nearly 90% of Americans said the internet has been an essential or important tool during the coronavirus pandemic; university students have also widely reported the primacy of technology and internet access in their continuing educations. Betsy Foresman has more.

Alabama universities get a tech funding boost

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week announced more than $72 million in coronavirus fund relief will be supplied to the state’s higher education institutions to purchase the technology infrastructure needed to support remote learning. The new funding will enable universities and colleges to purchase devices that can be loaned to students, remote-desktop software, video conferencing equipment for classrooms, security software and other technology needed for remote access. “COVID-19 has exposed deficiencies in our remote learning capabilities, and I am pleased to award our institutions of higher education the critical funds to enhance their instructional experience,” Ivey said. “My office has received numerous CARES Act funding requests, and we are eager to help as many folks as possible.” Colin Wood has the details.

How are students handling remote learning?

After surveying students around the country on how they were handling the new remote-learning environment, researchers at Rutgers University developed a new resource to help educators redesign their instruction to be more equitable, community-focused and student-centered. They surveyed more than 3,000 undergraduate students from 31 universities and found the majority “craved the human connections that was lost when they had to leave school because of the pandemic.” The new resources, called "Left to Their Own Devices," include short posts hoped to aid teachers as they navigate the new learning environment. Jake Williams breaks it down.

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