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Detective explains vulnerability of school computer systems

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Posted at 6:08 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 19:34:10-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been a week since the Park Hill School District launched an investigation into a cyberattack that forced the district to cancel school.

A detective with Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, who did not want to be identified, recently showed the 41 Action News Investigative Team how to create several malware files in just a matter of minutes.

He said schools are particularly vulnerable to such attacks due to the number of children who have access to school computers.

"Once [hackers] get control of the server, they have complete control of the network," the detective said.

A spokesperson with PHSD said the malware attack on the district's systems happened through a personal email or a bogus website.

Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers said kids are often baited with devices they may want for free.

"They would get these emails that would be stuff they wanted like, 'Hey you want an iPad or a PlayStation Four?' and they would click these and they would be viruses," Childers said.

Childers spent three years as a resource officer for a school in Kansas City, Missouri. He said students often gained access to the administrative codes that allowed them to search the web without any safeguards.

Childers and the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force detective said users should download antivirus software, update their operating systems and change their passwords regularly to protect themselves.

To avoid attacks, it's recommended people avoid websites that are not credible. If a ransomware attack logs someone out of their computer, don't contact the number on the computer. Instead, take the computer into a store like Best Buy to have them fix the issue.

Park Hill confirmed Tuesday ransomware was the nature of the cyberattack which occurred on its systems, and likely happened when a student or staff member clicked on an infected link in an email or on a website.