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Platte County School District malware attack 'came from Russia'

Platte malware
Posted at 11:22 AM, Oct 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-01 20:44:50-04

PLATTE CITY, Mo. — The Platte County School District said Tuesday that a malware attack, which targeted school computers earlier this year, likely originated in Russia.

The cyberattack happened on the fourth day of school in late August, but a school district spokesperson said no sensitive information was compromised.

Still, for tech department manager Andy Hall, the discovery of the cyberattack brought all sorts of concern.

“I think the whole department was a little bit sick to the stomach,” he said. “You’re just scrambling to make sense of what all is out there.”

Platte County schools shared the message from the cyberattacker, who claimed that information would be held hostage until a ransom was paid, with 41 Action News.

Immediately after discovering the virus, Hall said his team jumped into action.

“We had a lot of new folks on the staff,” Hall, who said two people on the eight-member team started the day before the malware attack occurred, said. “It was just an amazing effort from everybody to go out and start churning through.”

After making contact with the FBI and other tech experts, the team checked over every single computer in every district building.

The effort brought long days and plenty of hard work to ensure that the digital systems for the schools were safe.

“We had people here Saturdays and Sundays until midnight rebuilding servers,” he said.

After being told not to contact the cyberattacker or pay a ransom, Hall said the team eventually got the system back up and running.

Looking back, he said the school district’s decision to store loads of information on the Cloud, rather than local servers, likely saved it from additional issues related to the malware atack.

“I can only hope that this is our one time going through this,” Hall said. “It was painful.”

For the team’s efforts, the tech department was recently honored during a school board meeting.

Superintendent Mike Reik said the experience served as a warning to other districts and entities with an online presence to be prepared.

“The things that we had in place already protected all of our sensitive data,” Reik said. “Be ready to respond. They’re always a step ahead, and sometimes you have to be reactive.”

In addition to shielding its sensitive information, the school district said none of the Chromebooks assigned to students were threatened.