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CUSD in the dark after hack takes down email and Internet systems

The Claremont Unified School District has been in the dark for days after a ransomware attack crippled their email and Internet systems.

The attack was first detected in the afternoon of November 21, CUSD Superintendent Jim Elsasser said.

“We were trying to access one of our systems and we couldn’t,” Mr. Elsasser said. “And so that’s what set off our alarm bells.”

As of Thursday, online services have been down for two weeks. The blow was lessened somewhat by the weeklong Thanksgiving holiday, which happened shortly after the attack was first detected.

Mr. Elsasser couldn’t comment on who sent the attack, what the perpetrators told the district or the amount the perpetrators demanded. Currently, the CUSD has a team working on the servers, and Mr. Elsasser noted that every computer in the district had to be worked on.

“We have teams that are working with experts and working around the clock to get us back online as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Elsasser did not offer a date, however, on when online services will return.

The CUSD sent out a memo on November 22 noting that as a precaution, Internet access had been disabled throughout the district, leading teachers to continue their lessons without access to the Internet.

Mr. Elsasser said CUSD staff has been “amazing” during this process.

“I walked the classrooms at three of our schools and continue to be impressed by the flexibility and adaptability and the high quality of instruction going on regardless of the lack of Internet,” he said.

But consequences of the outage are already being felt at the school level. Angela Bailey, a CUSD parent and former COURIER reporter, said her son’s project at Condit Elementary School, initially due in December, was pushed to January because of the outage.

The attack also comes around the same time teachers think about posting their grades for the semester, which are done online.

As the issue is being worked on, Mr. Elsasser said updates to parents are being posted periodically on the school district’s Blackboard system, which is still operational.

If a parent has any questions, concerns or needs to report a student absent, they can simply call their school or let administrative staff know via a written note, he said.

Updates are also posted on the CUSD’s website, which is hosted on a different server.

At the district office, Mr. Elsasser said that a lot of work has been done over the telephone, and he has been making himself available for anyone who has any questions.

He commended parents for their understanding during this issue, acknowledging that it could be difficult navigating through the school system without the technology they have become accustomed.

“The key is flexibility,” Mr. Elsasser said. “And we’ve seen that flexibility not only with staff, but also with parents and students.”

 

Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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