Ransomware attack shuts down remote classes in Newhall

A computer ransomware attack has locked up systems in the Newhall School District, leading to the cancellation of remote classes for at least Tuesday.
NEWHALL, Calif. (KABC) -- A computer ransomware attack has locked up systems in the Newhall School District, leading to the cancellation of remote classes for at least Tuesday.

The district issued a message to students telling them to not log on to the district's distance learning systems or use any district device.

The attack came ironically on National Online Learning Day.

For students and parents, it's just one more glitch in a year that has been full of unwelcome surprises.

"They've gotten used to this weird unpredictable 2020 where they can't go to school," said Joel Crawford, who has two children attending Stevenson Ranch Elementary.

"I think they're adaptable, they've kinda rolled with it, they're just waiting for things to get back on track."

Clifford Neuman, director of USC's Center for Computer Systems Security, said such ransomware attacks are quite common. Other school districts have also fallen victim, he said.

"Usually what you have is a well-orchestrated ransomware campaign that is attempting to attack a large number of systems," Neuman said. "They're hoping to net some high-profile systems where the administrators are going to be willing to, for example, pay a ransom to get access to their systems back."

The school district is telling parents they've contacted their legal services and insurance provider as well as a forensics firm to resolve the issue.

There's currently no estimate for when online learning will resume.

The district posted a statement that read in part:

"Newhall School District recently learned of an incident involving a ransomware attack on our systems. After we learned of this incident, we took immediate action to protect the District's system and data. We are working to restore operations and enhance the security of our platforms. A professional third-party forensics firm has been engage to investigate the ransomware incident and determine the scope of the incident. As our investigation continues, we will continue to enhance our security measures to help protect the student and employee data stored on our systems."

We want our students, their parents, and the Newhall community to know that we place a high value on maintaining the integrity and security of the data we hold in our systems. We also want everyone to know that we are working diligently to restore operations. Both restoring operations and our investigations are ongoing."


In the meantime, the district has posted on its website a list of basic activities for parents to help guide students through this even more unusual day.

"This is a great opportunity for kids to learn that things are out of your control," Crawford said. "And all you can do is be positive and try and do your best in these situations."
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