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Without Internet Service, Penncrest Schools 'Get Creative'

After a ransomware attack left it without Internet service for days, a Pennsylvania school district is still conducting classes with unconnected devices and old-school papers, pencils, lectures and group activities.

Blond student writing at her desk.
The district has streamlined how high-volume, low-dollar items, such as pencils and paper, are ordered.
Flickr/Phil Roeder
(TNS) — After three days without Internet service, Penncrest School District teachers and students are "getting creative," according to Superintendent Tim Glasspool.

"A great teacher can teach with a piece of chalk," he said Wednesday afternoon, speaking on a cellphone set up to receive calls to the district's central office. "It's a little bit kind of an old-school way of educating children in 2023, but you know what? It's happening. I'm really proud of everybody."

Glasspool said the ransomware-related outage was expected to continue today and Friday, but he hoped to know more about the cause and possible resolution within the next 24 hours.

No district data has been breached or lost so far following an attempted ransomware attack that was detected early Saturday, he added.

The incident disrupted the district's telephone service as well as its Internet. A call to the district's central number Wednesday afternoon yielded only a busy signal. Glasspool said that cellphones like the one in use at the central office have been provided to each school building. The phone numbers have been included in the updates the district has posted to its website,, and its Facebook page over the past several days.

Glasspool said cellular data, though often spotty, is also available at the district's buildings and hotspots have been used to provide limited Internet access. Classes, however, have been Internet free.

"You can use a device, you just can't hook up to the Internet — if you wanted to take notes or work on spreadsheets or whatever," the superintendent said. "Paper, pencils, lecture, hands-on group work — normal stuff. It's good — it's not bad, really."

The biggest challenge, he continued, has been the disruption to phone service and making sure buildings are accessible to the public in the event of emergencies "or whatever comes up during the school day." So far there have been no complaints related to the situation, he added.

A 2020 ransomware attack in which some district files were encrypted was resolved with no exposure of personal information or other sensitive data. The incident cost Penncrest $10,000 — the deductible on its cyber insurance policy — and the district's insurance company paid out nearly $75,000, including costs for investigations into the attack. At the time, Glasspool declined to comment on whether any of the money was paid to the Russian hackers believed responsible for the attack.

Glasspool on Wednesday declined to go into detail regarding the current attack but said, "It's a different kind of ransomware."

The district's response was being assisted by both law enforcement and cybersecurity experts.

"We are progressing with our understanding of this ransomware event and moving towards a return to the normal school routine," Glasspool said in an update posted to the district website and Facebook page on Wednesday. "At this time, we cannot share specific details about the event in order to limit the threat actors' knowledge of our response efforts."

©2023 The Meadville Tribune (Meadville, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.