Mum’s the word at Houston County Schools with limited information released about the severity of a recent malware attack on its servers.

After over a week since the announcement was originally made, law enforcement and school officials have been unable or unwilling to state the effect of the hack on student or payroll information.

“All I can say is if they had a data breach and are not notifying us, then trust and believe they are about to have much bigger issues on their hands besides a stinking phone system,” said one parent in a Facebook comment.

The silence is giving stakeholders reason to suspect that the hack did affect information, or could affect a leak of information in the form of ransomware, which is malicious software that holds data hostage in return for a ransom amount.

“Parents deserve the right to know, yet still haven’t been told anything,” another parent said on Facebook.

In other school systems that have been hacked, student information like birth dates, names, addresses, and Social Security numbers and parent emails were affected.

If information is leaked, knowledge and time are of the essence. Parents rarely use credit-monitoring services for their children, but may obtain such services if they are concerned about it being used.

One of the most common ways information security specialists say these infections start is with a phishing attack, pretending to be an Education Department official tricking members of school administrative staff into delivering contact information, primarily emails.

The attackers then send school staff emails with attachments waiting for the victim to download them to their devices. Once the victims open these files, it releases a virus that blocks access to all files on a system, demanding up to $10 thousand to restore access.

Information security specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) have detected some of the most common variants among recently detected infection cases. Although harmful capabilities and infection methods may vary, all of these malware aim to the same goal: to get a ransom.

Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com

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Reporter II

History nut. Dr. Pepper drinker. Mom.

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