Cyberattack attempt leads to internet shutdown at Albany schools

ALBANY – The Albany City School District’s computer systems were repeatedly attacked over the weekend, but school officials said no data was stolen.

However, the technology team cut off the district’s connection to the internet on Sunday in response to the attacks. Teachers and students were advised Monday that they could not use the internet for the next three days.

That included district-issued hotspots and Chromebooks.

That means teachers will have to teach without using lessons saved on a digital cloud – the most common method – and then linked through their laptops to projection screens in their classrooms. They also will not be able to send or receive emails.

Students typically use Chromebooks to access programs where they practice math and read books, with computerized learning set to their individualized level.

One teacher said administrators acknowledged the ban’s impact on education, but said it had to be done because of the attempted cyberattack.

Instructional coaches, supervisors, deputy superintendents and officials who oversee home school programs fanned out across the district to help teachers pivot to a different type of teaching, Superintendent Kaweeda Adams said, “To help them adjust to not use the digital platform we have become so accustomed to use.”

“Instruction has continued. It might be a little bumpy today,” she added.

They searched the district’s physical drives for digital resources teachers needed, replacing examples or videos that the teacher had saved on the cloud. They brought in books and other materials.

“We have the regular print materials,” Adams said. “Instructional supervisors brought in materials they might need.”

Still, it was not easy to suddenly lose access to lessons. Most teachers keep their lessons saved on the cloud, Google Classroom is still used by in-person students regularly, and searching the Internet is commonplace.

“It is a key component of our instruction,” Adams said.

Without email, teachers had to turn to phones to ask for help.

“Our phones are still working, so we can still reach out,” Adams said.

No data has been stolen and the district has not become a victim of ransomware, she added. But she said the only way to ensure that safety continued during the attack was to cut access to the internet.

“The internet has to be shut down so we can track anything that is trying to come in,” she said. “When your internet is open, it puts you in a more vulnerable position. We want to make sure we are mitigating those opportunities.”

The US Department of Homeland Security is helping the district. Contact information for Homeland Security was in the district’s cyber security plan – a key item, since the district couldn’t simply email someone once internet was cut.

She emphasized that despite the repeated attempts, it does not appear that the attackers were successful.

“We have all of our precautions in place. Everything worked the way it was supposed to work,” she said. “However, there were attempts made to access our information. And in being responsive and proactive, working with our authorities, we are making sure we are doing everything we can on our end.”

Albany schools are far from the first to face such a situation. Last year, Guilderland schools and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute faced cyberattacks.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.