‘Ransomware’ wreaks havoc on schools

By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@aimmediamidwest.com



A computer virus forced the Wellington Schools to temporarily freeze its networks this month.

Superintendent Ed Weber said the virus entered district computers through the phone system on March 10 and was discovered by antivirus software the following day.

No data appears to have been taken from the network, which is primarily used by office staff to store spreadsheets and memos.

“Our server rooms are at McCormick (Middle School) and we store a lot of our hard data right here on site,” Weber said. “Staff has a choice to save documents to the network or to their computer. We’re working to restore everything but anything saved to the network after the virus entered will likely not be able to be recovered.”

School computers are still able to access the Internet.

District technology coordinator Jim Perchinske said the network has been largely restored to working order and he is in the process of checking all district computers one by one as a precautionary measure.

He classified the virus as “ransomware” that shows prompts asking network users for payment through online cryptocurrency like Bitcoin in order to regain access.

The virus was intentionally placed in the network but Perchinske doesn’t think the Wellington Schools were specifically targeted.

“These people just look for any business network,” he said. “Once your files are encrypted, an actual message pops up in a notepad saying to contact an email address withing a certain amount of hours, usually about 72. They don’t even wait that long until moving on to the next group they’re trying to infiltrate.”

“It happens to companies all the time,” he said. “It’s not a vendetta against a particular company or school district. Hackers just go around trying to get into any infrastructure they can. That’s how they make money.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.


By Jonathan Delozier