Florida Keys

Keys public school computers remain down a 5th day after cyberattack

A cyberattack has disrupted work at the Monroe County School District this week.
A cyberattack has disrupted work at the Monroe County School District this week. file photo - FLKeysNews.com

The Monroe County School District’s computer system remained partially down Thursday, the fifth day in a row after a ransomware attack was discovered Sunday by an employee.

“We’re in the process of bringing each site back online,” said Pat Lefere, the district’s executive director of operations and planning. “What we did is rebuild each server from scratch to make sure they’re clean.”

But the cyberattack won’t affect payroll, said Superintendent Mark Porter, who expects the system to be up and running Friday.

The hack also hasn’t compromised the district’s data.

“We haven’t had any access to data that was inappropriate nor have we had lost data,” Porter said. “The bad news is we haven’t had the type of access our employees are used to.”

The computer system, attacked by ransomware — a type of malware — called GandCrab, was exacerbated Thursday by a day-long Comcast cable and internet outage caused by a fiber cut, a Comcast spokeswoman said. Comast is the district’s internet provider.

“They ran into a second type of complication, a disruption by Comcast,” Porter said. “That’s part of what we rely upon as well for our network of communication.”

Lefere said they had gotten the computers back up at the administration office, three high schools and Horace O’Bryant School in Key West. But thirty minutes later, the internet went out.

The hack will affect the delivery of student mid-quarter progress reports. They’ll come out next week, Porter said.

An employee working on payroll on Sunday discovered problems with the computers and put in an IT request. The tech crew responded and quickly contacted the district’s internet security provider, Symantec, said Lefere, and the district chose to take the system down.

Ransomware is a Trojan horse that aims to hold network data on an infected system hostage until a payment is made. No demands on Monroe County schools were made.

“That only happens for folks that don’t back up their stuff and are so desperate,” Lefere said. “We recover our files from the last backup.”

The computer hack meant the district couldn’t broadcast its Tuesday school board meeting. A video recording of the meeting was posted online on Wednesday.