WASHINGTON, DC (WMBF) What's the value of a child's data?
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked a representative from Horry County Schools why school officials agreed to pay around $8,500 to an unknown cyber criminal in February when their data was frozen.
"I've been working in this field for about 30 years and it was probably the worst moment of my life," said Charles Hucks, executive director of technology for Horry County Schools.
Hucks said realizing hackers had stolen data from the school system is something that stopped him cold. He spoke before Graham and other lawmakers for a Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on ransomware that sought to understand the threat and explore solutions.
The attack spread like wildfire throughout the 52 schools, Hucks said, forcing officials to shut down all servers to prevent further damage and pay a ransom to get their data back.
"The daily business value of 33,000 students and 3,800 faculty and staff who were unable to access portfolios, class projects, term papers, lesson plans and so forth quickly and easily surpassed the $8500 ransom value," Hucks said.
He also told the panel the virus likely came in through an email.
Graham asked if law enforcement were able to help. Hucks said, "No, not at all," and the district had no option to pay the money.
The panel included other tech experts, who said because cyber criminals typically return the data upon payment, it makes it difficult for victims not to pay up.
All agreed that authorities need more tools to tackle the problem.
Video of Charles Hucks' testimony can be viewed below: