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Keys Schools Knocked Offline In Malicious Software Attack

Pearson K-12 Technology/flickr
The Monroe School District's computer system, including phones, were shut down after a ransomware attack.

Viewers hoping to watch the Monroe County School Board meeting online Tuesday — or who tried to get through to the school district by phone — were out of luck.

The district shut its entire computer system down after detecting a malicious software attack over the weekend.

The attack was "ransomware," which encrypts a system's data and then attempts to make the owner pay to restore access, typically with cryptocurrency like bitcoin, said Patrick Lafere, the executive director of operations and planning.

The district's phones rely on internet service, so they were also shut down.

The district regularly backs up its data, so is restoring the system without paying the ransom, Lafere said.

In schools, staff used personal cell phones to communicate by text or phone.

"We've got backup landline phones, but we're not able to use them as efficiently as our regular phomnes," he said. Schools were also using the old-fashioned public address systems in the classrooms.

Lafere said going offline did not mean learning stopped.

"The teacher in the classroom always has tools available to them to instruct. Some are computer-related and some are not," he said. "It's just taken whatever computer-related tools away from them."

The district's email system is cloud-based so people could access that from their phones if they wanted, he said.

He said no personal information about students or staff was compromised — and that the district will meet its next payroll without problem.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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