A ransomware attack on Maryland’s Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) has affected the said system, forcing online learning across the said public schools to close down for Wednesday, November 25, 2020, reports CBS Local Baltimore.
According to The Verge, local officials regarded the incident as a “networking issue,” with the attack affecting the email and grading system of the county schools, among many others. The website is also currently down.
CBS Local Baltimore reports that the issue started manifesting late Tuesday night, November 24, 2020. While participating in a virtual board meeting, parent Amy Adams recounted that the screen turned blue all of a sudden. Besides this, the system also suffered a host of network issues.
The chief of staff of Baltimore County Public Schools Mychael Dickerson took to social networking site Twitter to confirm the attack. In a tweet, Dickerson said, “We were the victim of a ransomware attack. Our BCPS technology team is working to address the situation.”
Ransomware attacks do their damage by locking out network operators from their own systems by encrypting data on already vulnerable or compromised networks, states The Verge. After exploiting these networks, attackers will seek payment or ransom, mostly in bitcoin, to return the system to its original setting.
With the ransom typically costing less than recovery, The Verge reports that many victims of these criminals are said to pay the amount instead of taking a long time to recover the system.
Despite this, CBS Local Baltimore reveals that attackers who hijacked the BCPS system have yet to make contact regarding how much ransom they will be demanding.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that they are aware of the incident. The agency issued a statement on the same day saying, “The FBI takes all cyber-crime seriously and is aware of the cyber-attack at Baltimore County Schools today.”
“Per our usual policy, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. However, when the FBI learns about intrusions, it’s customary that we offer our assistance in these matters, especially when it has such a direct impact on our community,” shared the FBI.
As of writing, the investigation surrounding the ransomware attack is still underway. The BCPS has contacted relevant authorities regarding the incident.
In a statement, Melissa Hyatt, Baltimore County Police Chief, said, “We are in the preliminary steps of the investigation, and while I know there is an interest in more information, at this time, we are just not able to provide anything additional.”