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Huntsville City Schools cancels classes Tuesday due to ransomware threat

Huntsville City Schools is canceling classes on Tuesday due to a "potential cybersecurity threat.”

Posted: Nov 30, 2020 5:01 PM
Updated: Nov 30, 2020 6:58 PM

Huntsville City Schools is canceling classes on Tuesday due to a ransomware threat.

The district announced earlier Monday that it was closing all schools and campuses for the remainder of the day “due to a potential cybersecurity threat.” It said “students, families, and faculty and staff members should shut down their district-issued devices and ensure the devices remain off until further notice.”

The system also says no one should log in to any HCS platforms from either school or home.

"That helps our IT team work with authorities to identify the issue and work to mitigate the potential spread of the attack," said Craig Williams, Huntsville City Schools Chief Communications Officer.

A Huntsville cyber security expert agrees that this is the best course of action right now.

"Really to keep it from propagating through the system, they really need people to stay off the, off out of the applications and off of their computers, so if they want to help, that's the best thing they can do right now," said David Jarmon, VP of cyber security at Gray Analytics.

Williams said that it appears to be a ransomware attack and that the system is working with local and federal authorities. He said they found out about the threat because the school district's IT help desk received a high volume of calls, more than normal for a Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, it is not known if anyone's information has been compromised, according to Williams.

"We're working to examine now in terms of kind of the implications of the ransomware attack," said Williams.

Joseph Pleva is concerned for his children's education and hopes the district can get this issue resolved quickly.

"That they can find, if not a way to get all of it back online, at least enough of it work arounds if they could, so that they can at least continue going to school for the amount of time that they are able to," said Joseph Pleva, parent.

Superintendent Christie Finley shared the following message with families: 

Dear stakeholders,

We thank you for your understanding surrounding the early dismissal today. Our district is continuing to work with both local and federal authorities to work to resolve this cybersecurity threat, which appears to be a ransomware attack.

To mitigate the spread of a cyberattack, we will proceed with closing schools and campuses tomorrow on Dec. 1, 2020. Students, faculty, and staff members will not report to buildings. For clarity, students and teachers will not engage in remote learning.

We continue to encourage all users to ensure HCS devices remain off and to avoid logging on any HCS platforms until further notice.

While we are working to resume classes as quickly as possible, we acknowledge this may require some additional time away from buildings. We will keep you informed as we continue to consult with authorities and determine a plan moving forward.

We ask for your support and flexibility during this time as we have only the best interests of students, families, and employees in mind.

Very respectfully,

Christie Finley
HCS Superintendent

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