French International Schools Agency Impacted by Ransomware Hack

(Bloomberg) -- A branch of the French Foreign Ministry that operates the nation’s global network of schools was affected by a ransomware attack on a government software vendor.

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Elap, a French software firm that provides financial and HR services to public sector agencies, detected the ransomware attack on Nov. 5, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday, adding data from the Agency for French Education Abroad was affected by the breach.

The hackers gained access to personal information, including banking details, of parents of students who attend international schools operated by the body, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information was not public.

Officials fear the attack could serve as a gateway into the wider government network, they said.

The agency, known by its French initials AEFE, confirmed to Bloomberg it was a victim of an attack and declined to provide further details. The French Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The schools are popular among French-educated elites, including business executives, diplomatic and military personnel, royalty and celebrities. AEFE runs 580 schools in more than a hundred countries.

A series of recent ransomware attacks, which encrypt victims’ computers and then demand payment in order to restore access, have disrupted businesses ranging from ports to casinos, as well as trading of US treasuries. Those hit include Boeing Co., Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and Australian ports operated by DP World.

Ransomware gang Ransomexx claimed credit for the Elap attack and published 1.1 terabytes of documents last week on its darkweb page that it said were from the AEFE, including ID documents.

Bloomberg News wasn’t able to verify whether the documents were authentic.

Ransomexx is a criminal group active since 2020 that has hit victims including the Texas Department of Transportation, according to the New Zealand-based cybersecurity firm Emsisoft. It is unclear where it is based.

--With assistance from Ania Nussbaum.

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