Malware

Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza, Houston County School Superintendent David Sewell, school board Chairman Vince Wade, and Technology Director Bob Blalock share limited details on a malware attack on district servers with the media at a press conference at the Houston County Board of Education boardroom in July.

A criminal attack on the school district’s servers delayed Houston County schools start date by 10 days after computers, internet and phone lines were downed.

Computers and most phones were still not back online by the time school started, so teachers and administrators had to return to using pen and paper to teach, track attendance and charge student meals in the cafeteria.

School officials said the hack did not compromise data and attackers did not request a ransom, but the attack was a financial blow to the school board. It spent over $75,000 in overtime and contracted labor costs and new equipment.

The school board spent nearly $10,000 in paying off student lunch debt, which could not accurately be charged to students’ accounts. Personal computers for teachers cost approximately $350,000, while costs for new door-locking mechanisms, camera equipment, and other costs associated with the hacked servers were still mounting at the time this article was published.

Members of the board realized that the hack could have been worse — locking school officials out of the system entirely, charging a steep ransom and compromising student and staff information.

Realizing the system could be more secure, the board approved a contract with ControlAltProtect, a forensic cybersecurity firm based in Birmingham, for monitoring and security purposes at $12,800 monthly.

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