The plight of Florida’s bright futures, for-profit colleges, and ransomware attacks on schools


On this Tuesday, April 6, episode of Sundial:

The fate of bright futures

Florida lawmakers have backed off a controversial plan to cut Bright Futures scholarships for students majoring “not directly leading to employment.” But that doesn’t mean the stock market is immune to pandemic-induced budget cuts.

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Florida has a habit of increasing the requirements to receive Bright Futures in the event of a budget shortfall, which has the greatest impact on black and Latino students.

“Lawmakers will say it has nothing to do with race. But the data is the data. When the changes that lawmakers put in place after the Great Recession took on their full force for the class of 2014 and 2016, the Sun Sentinel reported that this had a disproportionate impact on black and Latino students. The number of qualified black students has fallen by three-quarters, and the number of Hispanic students has fallen by two-thirds, ”said Jessica Bakeman, WLRN education reporter.

Bakeman was also the editor and project manager of the COVID-19 class series, which examined the impact of the pandemic on Florida’s most vulnerable students.

You can read more about his reports on this topic here.

The fate of bright futures

For-profit colleges

For-profit colleges have a long history in Florida. These institutions can offer their own loans, often at high interest rates, and can hold this debt on the student and even withhold degrees and certifications.

“You often see for-profit colleges getting this increase in enrollment during an economic downturn that happened in 2008. Obviously we are seeing a lot of economic problems across the country right now with COVID-19 and we are seeing for-profit registrations. start climbing again, ”said Sarah Butrymowicz, senior investigative editor at The Hechinger Report.

Investigation through The Hechinger report, in partnership with The New York Times, found that these institutions continue to operate with little oversight.

“Even if you are a graduate and have a job, you are still in debt. These loans are totally under the radar screen. They [for-profit colleges] can get them reimbursed immediately. Federal loans, you can wait six months after graduation to even start paying, with an interest rate of 2.5%. But for-profit college interest rates can go as high as 19 percent, ”said Meredith Kolodner, senior investigative reporter to the Hechinger Report.

There are 45 for-profit colleges in the state of Florida – places like Full Sail University, Florida National University, and Florida Career College.

University bricks

Ransomware attack on schools

Recently the Miami University and the Broward County School Systems have been hacked, threatening the personal information of patients, students and medical teachers.

Hackers use ransomware to hack and then obtain personal information in exchange for cash – in the case of Broward Schools, they demanded $ 40 million to return this information.

“This is not done to steal information, it is normally to obtain financial resources from the organization that is under attack. A ransomware attack normally encrypts your computer system … what ends up happening is your entire network is encrypted. This basically means that you don’t have access to it and you have no access to your data or systems, and you have to pay a ransom to get it, ”said Jorge Ortega, Director of the Cybersecurity School. of the Americas from Miami Dade College. .

Sundial has contacted the University of Miami and Broward County public schools. Here are the statements we received:

The University of Miami is currently investigating a data security incident involving Accellion, a third-party hosted file transfer service provider. We take data security seriously and data protection is a top priority.

As soon as we became aware of the incident, we took immediate action to investigate and contain it, including immediately disabling the Accellion server used for secure file transfers. We also retained the services of leading cybersecurity experts to assist us with our investigation. We have reported the incident to law enforcement and are cooperating with their investigation.

We understand that the Accellion security incident affected several federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government organizations, as well as private sector organizations and businesses, including those in the medical, legal, telecommunications, finance, and finance industries. , higher education, retail and energy. .

Our investigation into this incident is ongoing and we continue to analyze the data files within the Accellion server used for secure file transfers and to identify individuals whose personal information has been potentially affected. While this analysis is ongoing, we have started notifying affected individuals by post in accordance with applicable laws.

Based on our investigation to date, the incident has been limited to the Accellion server used for secure file transfers and has not compromised other University of Miami systems or affected outside systems linked to the network of the University of Miami. the University of Miami. However, we continue to improve our cybersecurity program to further protect our systems against cyber threats. We continue to serve our university community in accordance with our commitment to education, research, innovation and service.

Here is the statement from the Broward County Public Schools, released on March 12:

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) recently detected a service disruption that impacted the availability of some systems within the BCPS computer network. Upon learning of this incident, BCPS secured its network and opened an internal investigation. A cybersecurity company has been hired to provide assistance. BCPS takes this incident very seriously and is focused on safely restoring affected systems as soon as possible, as well as improving the security of its systems.

This updated statement was released on March 31, in response to additional requests:

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) are committed to protecting the data in their systems. Unfortunately, all organizations face increasingly sophisticated and malicious threats to cybersecurity. To help better protect against these types of incidents, the District has taken steps to strengthen the security of its systems, including additional administrative, technical and physical safeguards.

BCPS continues to work with cybersecurity experts to investigate the incident and correct the affected systems. Efforts to restore all systems are underway and are progressing well. We do not intend to pay a ransom.

At this stage of the investigation, we are not aware of any personal student or employee data that has been compromised as a result of this incident. If the investigation reveals compromised personal data, the District will provide appropriate notification to those affected.

No additional information is shared to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Ransomware attack on schools

FBI Director James Comey walks up to talk about cybersecurity in August.  His decision to issue a letter saying he was reviewing more emails from Clinton rocked the presidential election.

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