Huntsville City Schools warns about personal information possibly compromised in cyber attack

The school system's IT team has been working for three weeks on the attack.

Posted: Dec 21, 2020 6:24 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2020 6:25 PM

On Monday, Huntsville City Schools warned parents about personal information being compromised in the school system's ransomware attack.

School leaders say it is possible social security numbers and email addresses could be part of the information that was accessed by cybercriminals.

The system's IT team has been working for three weeks on the attack. They are taking steps to stop the spread of ransomware.

However, some information may have been accessed. This includes State Student Identification numbers from 2013, 2016 and 2020. It also includes email addresses from parents this year and social security numbers of employees who worked for the district in 2013, 2016 and 2020.

Superintendent Christie Finley said she understands this can be alarming to parents.

"We look at this as a potential that it may have been and in doing so, we've created a web page that outlines resources that are available for our parents, for our employees," Finley said. "As a potentially impacted person, I intend on following those guidelines also laid out on our webpage."

Some of those guidelines include watching out for instances of fraud or identity theft over the next 12 to 24 months.

Right now, the district is working to distribute re-imaged devices to students. It also issued new devices to faculty and staff. On top of that, the district invested in additional cybersecurity software.

"We will put provisions in place and precautionary measures based off what we received as recommendations and guidance from our cyber experts. We've actually already done that, so there are agents and software in place to protect our network," Finley said.

Huntsville City Schools paid for additional protection through its general fund.

Finley did not specify just how much the attack has cost the district, but is hoping in the future, the state can help out.

"I would encourage as an opportunity, as our state legislator goes into session, that they do look at including more funding for cybersecurity in our schools," Finley said. "Just as everything that has less funding, this is really important. Everything is moving to the Cloud, but with everything we do, there are people out there who have sophisticated measures to try to infiltrate our system."

Students will finish the semester virtually. Come January, traditional students are returning in a staggered schedule.

The FBI is still investigating the attack.

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