Chester County School computer systems still down, officials tal - | WBTV Charlotte

Chester County School computer systems still down, officials talking with hackers

(Kristi O'Connor | WBTV) (Kristi O'Connor | WBTV)
CHESTER COUNTY, SC (WBTV) -

Chester County Schools are going back to pencil and paper until the IT department can recover the school’s computer system after a ransomware hack over the weekend.

Wednesday WBTV learned the hackers gained access to the system by email. School leaders say no data was compromised, but the hackers requested an undisclosed amount of bitcoin in return for the recovered files.

This is a statement the school system provided with WBTV Wednesday: 

This past weekend Chester County School District suffered a ransomware attack. Upon discovery, the IT staff responded to the attack vigorously, and fortunately there was no data breach. 

It appears that the ransomware gained entrance to the system via email. The message that appeared stated that the district's servers had been encrypted and that demand for an undisclosed amount of bitcoins would follow. We were given an email address to communicate with the attackers, which has been ongoing.

The district is very fortunate that our IT department has been vigilant in backing up data and taking added measures to best prepare us for such an attack. We are operating as close to normal as possible and learning is still taking place, just with minimal use of technology. The network is shut down while we work through this process, which may take a few days. Pencil and paper have replaced laptops and internet in all schools and the district office as our IT department works tirelessly to get the network back online. We would like to thank everyone for their patience as we continue to recover from this attack.

Assistant professor of cyber security at Winthrop University, Andrew Besmer, says hackers are attacking larger organizations because they likely have more money to offer than an individual. Besmer says they often times do not care about the personal information they have access to and they don’t need to get access. 

“It’s just as good to them if they don’t have a single file because they can encrypt the files and an organization simply can’t function,” Besmer said.

He says ransomware hacks can be preventable, but it is the human error that makes us most vulnerable to this kind of attack.

“One person who clicks on the email provides a pathway,” Besmer said. “It may not be that that person is a high-level employee and has access to a lot of data, but they have a access to a computer. Then they have a way to go from outside the system to inside.” 

Besmer says it is very important to make sure all individuals with access to computers are trained in cyber security. If you do find yourself falling victim to ransomware, in general experts say do not give in to the hacker.

“By doing that you are A. supporting organized crime. B. you may not get your data back. and C. you’re making yourself a victim that might be targetable again in the future,” Besmer said.

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