Administrators at HCS (Huntsville City Schools) have called upon staff members, students, and their families to turn off their school laptops, tablets, and other devices provided by the district. The reason for that appeal is a ransomware threat that may have reached the school's network. On Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, school officials put all classes on hold for the remainder of the week. HCS representatives are working in close collaboration with the state authorities to neutralize the threat and resume normal operations, a.s.a.p.
Learning Goes Offline
Until the cyber clouds over Huntsville City Schools clear, twenty-three thousand students will have to avoid using any technology relating to the educational process. They should not utilize any HCS platforms, nor should they switch their computer devices until further notice. Instead, they'll have to bear with learning materials on paper. Those restrictions apply to all campus students, as well. Campus students will be getting curbside meals till Friday, Dec. 4.
Threat Possibly Related to Incessant HelpDesk Calls
School officials believe that the malware must have struck on Monday, Nov. 30, when unknown actors all of a sudden started bombarding the school’s IT help desk with tons of calls. There is speculation that those actors may have stolen some personal student data, although there has been no official confirmation about that for the time being. Official details concerning potential data leaks will probably not come out until the investigation has ended.
HCS Remains Tight-Lipped
While school officials admit to having fallen prey to a ransomware attack, they have so far maintained a stiff upper lip about the malware itself. The temporary closure may help the school’s IT specialists to assess the real extent of the damage and prevent it from going further. Nevertheless, researchers are prone to think the attack may have compromised the entire district’s data, as well. They may try to restore everything from backups, should such exist, reverse engineer the ransomware, or negotiate an agreement for a lower ransom payment as a last resort.
Red Alert For Other Schools
Even though every educational institution utilizes robust anti-malware solutions, no organization is immune to cyber threats, especially when all it takes is a single click on the wrong tab or link. That's what may have triggered the infection at HCS. Moreover, that's what may bring other similar organizations down, too.
Ransomware attacks may be particularly nasty, especially when targeting a public institution. It may take hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars and many unplanned resources to fully repair the damage inflicted by a successful ransomware attack. In this respect, maintaining impeccable security should be paramount for pretty much any educational and non-educational entity out there.