township of union schools ransomware

Ransomware group LockBit today claimed responsibility for a May 2024 ransomware attack that crippled the Township of Union School District in New Jersey. LockBit posted a proof pack on its leak site allegedly containing confidential documents from the district.

On May 14, the district announced it was the victim of a ransomware attack that resulted in a “significant network disruption.” The school was forced to take critical systems offline and brought in external IT consultants to assess the damage and restore operations

LockBit is demanding an undisclosed ransom be paid by June 2, 2024, though it’s not clear what data it compromised. The District has not stated what types of data or how many students and/or staff are affected.

We do not yet know how much ransom LockBit is demanding, whether the district intends to pay it, which systems are still down, or how attackers breached the network. Comparitech contacted the Township of Union School District for comment and will update this article if it responds.

Who is LockBit?

LockBit is one of the most prolific ransomware gangs of recent years. Comparitech has recorded four confirmed attacks by LockBit on US education organizations in 2024 alone, plus three more attacks on schools in other countries. Those figures don’t account for dozens more claimed but unconfirmed attacks.

According to our data, LockBit is the culprit behind 34 confirmed attacks against the education sector since it first emerged in 2019.

We’ve logged 385 total confirmed ransomware attacks by LockBit, and the US Justice Department estimates the total of number of victims worldwide is north of 2,000.

LockBit has been on a rampage recently. Last week, it added more than 150 victims to its leak site. The group’s leader, Russian national Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev, was recently unmasked by law enforcement, and many of the group’s public facing websites were seized by authorities in February.

Some of LockBit’s other recent big scores include Boeing; Change Healthcare; the city of Wichita, KS; Oracle; Crinetics Pharmaceuticals; a school district in Oregon; and Fulton County, GA.

Ransomware attacks on US education

In 2023, Comparitech logged 102 confirmed ransomware attacks on the education sector in the US, a big increase on the 72 attacks in 2022. The attacks in 2023 affected 2,017,053 individual records. The average ransom was $450,000.

So far this year we’ve tracked 13 confirmed attacks on the US education sector. They include American International University, Virginia Union University, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Lee University, and Traverse City Area Schools.

In addition to data theft, ransomware attacks can cripple key systems, forcing schools to cancel classes and pay high recovery costs. In 2022, we noted an average downtime of 11.65 days.

About the Union Township School District

The Township of Union School District—not to be confused with Union Township School District, which is also in New Jersey—operates 10 schools in northern-central Union County. It employs 1,200 people and enrolls about 7,200 students.