School district bouncing back from cyber attack

LaBarr

WATERTOWN — The Watertown City School District within 10 days should bounce back to full recovery from a malware attack that destroyed its servers, according to the superintendent.

Patricia B. LaBarr said the servers have been rebuilt and returned last week, email will be available again to staff once they receive temporary passwords to log in, and she now has access to her email and files.

Practically all systems and functions should be back online in 10 days, she said, with the ability for students to log in to school computers before school starts Sept. 5.

No personal information was compromised, and no records were lost as a result of the malware attack, Mrs. LaBarr said.

“We are actually still in recovery mode, but things are progressing rather nicely,” she said “We’re very fortunate, all things considered.”

The district described the incident as “an event” with its computer network and systems when it disclosed the incident, which occurred July 27. It hired the cybersecurity firm Anjolen, Utica, to help investigate the attack and help it recover, and it received assistance from Mohawk Regional Information Center.

Representatives of both firms could not be reached for comment Monday.

Machines from more than 1,600 separate work stations have been undergoing analysis in the wake of the attack, evaluations Mrs. LaBarr said she expected to conclude Monday. Cybersecurity experts have not pinpointed the origin of the malware, but Mrs. LaBarr said they identified the type of malware and presented protection measures against possible future attacks.

The district has not been sitting idle while recovering from the attack, which Mrs. LaBarr called an “inconvenience.” District staff have coordinated busing schedules with First Student at its local office, worked with Mohawk to ensure grades were uploaded, sent summer school students to the Flower Memorial Library to use its internet and complete coursework, conducted payroll outside of the office, held a three-day professional development workshop at Jefferson Community College and worked on school taxes at the city office.

Mrs. LaBarr said functions she normally coordinated with email she instead executed with faxes, phone calls and face-to-face interactions.

“Every time I think about all of the community support we had, it’s been overwhelming,” she said. “It could have been a huge disaster.”

The district’s board of education will receive a protection plan against future cybersecurity threats Tuesday. Mrs. LaBarr said cybersecurity has also been included in the district’s training for staff, with Tony Martino, vice president of Anjolen, holding a presentation on Sept. 3.

It’s good to have best practices and keep mindful of things we should be looking out for,” Mrs. LaBarr said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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