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Washington District Recovers Website After Finalsite Hack

Richland School District’s website is back up and running this week after a ransomware attack prompted the hosting company to shut down thousands of websites. District officials say no sensitive information was at risk.

(TNS) — The Richland School District’s website is back up after ransomware was discovered on the servers of the company that hosts it.

Finalsite, the Connecticut-based company that hosts the district’s website, discovered the presence of ransomware on its servers on Jan. 4, according to a statement from the company.

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents people from accessing their computer systems unless they pay a ransom.

In a step to protect school data, the company took down school websites they host across the nation. School and company officials pointed out that ransomware was never triggered and no one was locked out of any systems.

“Our team of engineers did that proactively in order to protect client data,” the statement said. “The team then began rebuilding websites in a new, secure environment.”

Ty Beaver, Richland’s director of communications, said no student data and little staff data is stored through Finalsite. None of the information that is on the site was at risk.

The district, which has 13,700 students, lost access to its website just as snow hit the Tri-Cities, and students were returning to classes after the holiday break.

People looking for information about COVID infections, school delays or other information and weren’t able to find them. Prompting many to call or email the district.

They were able to use social media and text message services to tell parents about closures and delays caused by the storms.

And they created a temporary website on Thursday. Once the full website was working again, the temporary site was taken down.

People have been understanding about the outage, Beaver said.

The district initially launched its website with Finalsite in 2019, and this is the first time they had any major problems other than minor technical glitches.

District officials plan to work with the company to make sure there are other alternatives if the system stops working, Beaver said.

“It concerns us when something isn’t functioning like it should,” he said. “We will continue to work with Finalsite to make sure our websites operate at their optimal level.”

Finalsite is starting its own investigation that the company estimates it could take weeks, the company said.

“The remainder of the investigation is to confirm these findings and ensure compliance with applicable laws,” according to the Finalsite statement. “Should there be variance in our findings through the remainder of the investigation, we will promptly inform clients and take appropriate next steps.”

©2022 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.