Nantucket Public Schools superintendent Beth Hallett provided the Nantucket School Committee on Tuesday with an update on the ransomware attack that took place on January 31 and forced the early dismissal of students and staff that day as well as the cancellation of school on February 1.
While school is back in session, Hallett told the committee that the incident is "far from over" as she explained to them there is an ongoing investigation into the matter as they work to learn how the attack happened, why it happened, and how the schools can beef up its security systems to ensure it does not happen again.
"This has not been easy but from day one our team has been committed to learning from this experience and becoming a stronger and better protected district as a result," Hallett said.
Hallett noted that the school's technology department noticed some "suspicious computer activity" on their systems in the morning hours of January 31 and immediately informed her of what was going on. After assessing the situation Hallett made the decision to release staff and students early that day and announced that night the cancellation of school on February 1. She said the decisions were made to allow the tech department and school administration to begin an initial assessment as to what happened.
"We immediately began taking steps to investigate, contain and remediate this situation including shutting down systems proactively," she said.
The school engaged experienced cyber security professionals immediately after the attack and notified law enforcement as they began the process to identify available technical evidence that would help them assess the incident and how it happened, Hallett said.
“We also learned that ransomware has become increasingly frequent in recent years and that many school districts across the country have had similar experiences,” Hallett said. “Throughout this investigation the team’s focus has been on restoring the technology essential to learning while also implementing additional safeguards on top of our existing protections.”
Hallett said there is only so much she can share about the incident because this investigation remains active and ongoing. She told the committee that the day of school that was missed will be made up at the end of the school year. The half day does not need to be made up.