Data Privacy

Ransomware Gang Claims Edison Learning Data Theft

The Royal Ransomware is claiming to have infiltrated public school management and virtual learning provider Edison Learning, posting on its dark web data leak site on Wednesday, April 26, that it had stolen 20GB of the company’s data “including personal information of employees and students” and threatening to post the data “early next week.”

Typically, when Royal and similar ransomware groups post such warnings, it indicates they have likely made a ransomware demand and may be in negotiations with the targeted organization, said cybersecurity expert Doug Levin, who is national director at K12 Security Information Exchange and sits on CISA’s Cybersecurity Advisory Committee

Edison Learning confirmed a cyber incident has occurred and said it could not divulge anything else. "Our investigation into this incident is ongoing, and we are unable to provide additional details at this time," Edison Learning Director of Communications Michael Serpe told THE Journal in an email. "We do not have any student data on impacted systems." 

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Edison Learning was founded in 1992 as the Edison Project to provide school management services for public charter schools and struggling districts in the United States and United Kingdom. 

According to an archived 2015 website page, Edison Learning has managed hundreds of schools in 32 states, serving millions of students over the years. A 2012 Edison Learning sales presentation found online by THE Journal states that during the 2009–2010 school year, the company’s services were providing schooling for 400,000 children in 25 states, the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates.

More recently, Edison Learning has expanded to provide virtual schooling for middle and high school students as well as CTE courses for high school students, social-emotional learning courses for middle and high school, and more. The company operates its own in-house learning management system, called eSchoolware, and on its website touts other services such as “management solutions, alternative education, personal learning plans, and turnaround services for underperforming schools.”

The Royal ransomware gang — whose tactics were the subject of a CISA cybersecurity advisory in March 2023 — wrote on its data leak site on the dark web: “Looks like knowledge providers missed some lessons of cyber security [sic]. Recently we gave one to EdisonLearning and they have failed.”

Levin at K12SIX said that while “occasionally, these groups list victims they didn’t actually compromise,” the opposite is true more often than not. For example, on Royal’s data leak site, scores of companies — including a handful of public school districts, community colleges, and universities — are listed as victims targeted since the beginning of this year, and many include links to the stolen data files for the respective victims, who presumably did not pay the ransom.

K12SIX, a nonprofit threat-intelligence group specifically working to help U.S. public schools boost their networks’ security, offers free guides and templates to K–12 IT practitioners as well as guides for district leaders and policymakers on recommendations to stay ahead of cyber threat actors. The organization will host a free webinar for school IT and security leaders on Wednesday, May 3, starting at 1 p.m. ET called “Beyond IT: Building Cabinet Buy-in for a ‘Zero Trust’ Cybersecurity Program.” 

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].