Ransomware attack responsible for closure affecting schools in Jackson and Hillsdale

JACKSON, MI – Officials at the Jackson County Middle School District took network systems offline after technology staff determined suspicious activity was the result of a “ransomware incident.”

Public school districts in both counties canceled classes on Monday, Nov. 14, with the system outage affecting a wide range of building operations, including but not limited to heating, telephones and hall technology. of class.

Related: School was canceled in Jackson, Hillsdale Counties on Monday, November 14 due to a system outage

Jackson County Middle School District Superintendent Kevin Oxley confirmed in a statement that the ransomware attack that occurred over the weekend of Nov. 12-13 was the reason the district put the systems offline proactively to contain the incident.

The district has hired outside cybersecurity advisers to help with the safe restoration of systems and to investigate, Oxley said. JCISD also contacted law enforcement, Oxley said, but no further details could be provided.

“Given the system disruption in classroom technology, we have made the difficult decision to close schools today,” Oxley said Monday afternoon. “Our teams are working around the clock to restore systems in a safe and secure manner.”

Ransomware is a form of malicious software designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering all files and the systems that depend on them inoperable. Malicious actors then demand a ransom in exchange for decryption.

A decision on whether schools will have classes on Tuesday is expected later Monday, Oxley said. Those with school devices should refrain from using them for the time being, he said.

Jackson and Hillsdale County Public Schools are owned by a technology consortium that shares services, including server space. Oxley said the servers are not located at a school district site.

“Everything is grid-connected, and basically if it plugs into a wall, it’s pretty much grid-connected,” Oxley said. “It’s everything from HVAC systems to telephones. When you don’t have a reliable phone and HVAC, you really can’t go to school. »

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