Newhall schools put virtual lessons on hold due to ransomware attack

Photo courtesy of the Newhall School District.
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Newhall School District officials put virtual classes on hold Monday as staff worked to secure student and faculty technology following a ransomware attack, officials said. 

District officials said Monday that a “best-case” scenario would have the district offline for a day or two, possibly longer, and also announced they’ll be releasing pen-and-paper lesson plans for parents meant to help with lessons while the security issue is being resolved.

The district learned Monday of a ransomware attack — which is software that locks and encrypts a victim’s computer or device data, then demands a ransom to restore access, according to Norton.com, a leading antivirus maker. 

Newhall district Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said parents were notified and asked to stay off the district’s technology Monday morning, as soon as the district was made aware of the incursion. 

“In terms of the reason why we called it as a non-instructional day today, it’s because we have almost 3,500 devices deployed to our families,” Pelzel said Monday, shortly after the attack was announced. “So not knowing how long they’ve had access, we want to be overly cautious and have everyone stay off (the) devices and our network as soon as we got that information.”

The district recently acquired hundreds of new pieces of equipment, and Pelzel noted that so far, the attacks seem to be affecting the older non-Chromebooks, not the newer equipment. However, the district is taking every precaution it can while it identifies potential exposure, he added. 

New lesson plans for parents are expected to be accessible Tuesday through Blackboard, which was not affected by the attack, and the district’s website, Pelzel said. 

“We’re going to be monitoring day by day,” Pelzel said, “and we’re going to work as quickly as we can to get back up and running — but safety is the priority.”

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