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Indiana School District Restoring Computers After Ransomware

The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. is continuing to work this week to bring its computer network servers back online after a hack that knocked out “all internal network systems” district wide.

by Christian Sheckler, South Bend Tribune / November 14, 2019

(TNS) — The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. in Indiana was still working Wednesday to bring its computer network servers back online after a hack that knocked out “all internal network systems” district wide.

The school corporation first notified families and staff of the malware attack Tuesday afternoon. An email to staff indicated the corporation’s network was infected with ransomware, a type of virus used by hackers to shut down systems unless the victim pays the hackers to restore service.

According to the alerts to family and staff, the systems that were shut down because of the malware included Canvas, which is used by middle and high school students to access and submit work, and Skyward, which is used to track attendance and share information with families.

Lucha Ramey, a P-H-M spokeswoman, said technology staff shut down the corporation’s servers and began running “scrubbing” software after learning of the virus Tuesday. On Wednesday, staff began the process of bringing the servers back online, she said.

The corporation installed temporary wireless internet access Wednesday, allowing students to use Chromebooks and web-based class tools, according to an email to families. Ramey said there was no discussion of cancelling classes.

An email to staff said P-H-M had all its files and data backed up, but it would “take some time” to restore services.

Ramey said Canvas was "back up 100%" by late Wednesday afternoon. Some systems may take a couple weeks to be fully restored, she said. She also said there was no indication any data left the corporation’s servers.

Because P-H-M had the ability to bring its own systems back online, Ramey said the corporation was not in communication with the hackers responsible for the malware, and had no intention of paying ransom to have services restored.

P-H-M is not the first public agency in the area to be hit with a ransomware attack. Earlier this year, the LaPorte County government paid a ransom of $132,000, in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, after the FBI was unable to defeat a virus that shut down the county’s computer systems.

©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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