Ransomware cripples Internet and phone lines at Rockford Public Schools District

A ransomware attack on Rockford Public Schools (RPS) District 205 in the State of Illinois has downed school systems, including phone lines, the district said in a letter to staff and parents. The outage will likely last “several more days” as IT staff wrestles with the contagion.

“The electronic and digital systems outage districtwide will continue this week and could last several days,” the letter says The outage was triggered by ransomware, and we’re working with our Information Technology team and an outside computer forensics firm to restore access.”

RPS won’t say what ransomware strain was used in the attack, nor will it say how much the attackers demand in ransom to decrypt school systems, whether the district paid or how the attack occurred.

However, RPS does confirm that its access to the Internet has been severed and that phone access at its schools has been intermittent. Because of this, management has been rerouting any downed phone lines to working lines so parents and guardians can still contact their children’s schools.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our students and staff,” the letter continues.
“This includes protecting staff and students’ data and information. We have field experts helping our IT team evaluate the impact of this outage. We are working to get a complete picture of this incident and understand any impact to our data. We will provide additional updates and information when they’re available.”

The RPS incident is the latest in a long string of ransomware attacks on school systems across the United States as the new school year is just starting. In wake of these attacks, some parents and legal guardians have expressed deep concern that taxpayer money is being used to pay attackers for the decryption keys. In a study conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM, more than 60% of respondents said they would prefer their city avoid paying ransom and instead deal with recovery costs, even if they’re higher.

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