Alabama’s Houston County Schools are in a dilemma, as the start of its school year had to be delayed in order to buy more time in recovering from a malware attack. The school’s officials are tightlipped about what specific malware strain infected the schools’ networks. However, like what we have reported multiple times here, only ransomware-type infection can literally interrupt normal operations of any institution. This is because ransomware infection literally makes user files inaccessible until the “ransom” money is paid to the cybercriminal groups that made it.
The start of Alabama’s school year is scheduled on August 1, but the campuses are not ready since all Windows-based computers that the school administration uses to operate the schools are encrypted. School officials decided to reset the school year opening on August 12, a lost of 7-days of classes in the process. The announcement came from David Sewell, in order to provide time for forensic investigators and other IT experts to check the systems, de
“We don’t know where this came from. We have no clue. They don’t either. The bottom line is, it’s more on them than it is on us. We’ve just got to take care of the kids. It’s going to be a learning experience. People are going to learn what it was like 50 years ago, 30 years ago, before cell phones and things of that nature,” explained Bubba Odom, Principal of Ashford High School.
The school has no choice but to go back to manual systems while waiting for the forensic investigation to complete and the possibility of recovering the lost files that were encrypted. However, just like other stories of ransomware, the options are fairly limited. Either the schools affected have a reliable backup that they can rely on to restore the lost files or the painful decision to pay the ransomware authors their “ransom” demand. Superintendent Sewel confirmed that the affected schools had an approximate 4,000 computers in operation prior to the malware attack. With the re-image process taking 30-minutes per computer to complete. According to Alabama Law, there is no need to announce mandatory make-up class when a class is suspended for whatever reason, the option is for make-up classes falls on the judgment call of school officials.
“We feel like the teachers can stay on task and teach bell to bell and this time will be made up. We just have to be diligent with our time. If we have to go back to a magnetic board and we’re sticking up people on a magnet board where this teacher goes, where this student goes, some of us are old enough we can go back to that. It’ll work,” emphasized Sewel.
The affected schools are not confirming ransomware, however, Sewel told a hint that they will not pay money to repair the computers. Previously, the schools in the State of Louisiana were infected by ransomware, so severe that the state has to declare a state of emergency, which will give the state government full supervisory powers to quell the problem. Louisiana’s four district schools were rendered inoperational by ransomware for the next three weeks after the discovery of the infection.