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September 2014

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Cyber attack at Richmond School District

The Richmond School District was the victim of a ransomware attack yesterday, Feb. 19. A communication letter for families is being prepared at this time.

The increasingly popular malware program, Cryptolocker, hacked into the computers and encrypted or locked over 43,000 district files. A countdown clock appeared that explained the school would never be able to access those files unless a $400 ransom was paid.

“The weird thing is that it does not steal any information,” Superintendent Jeff Weiss explained.

This district says it has no reason to believe that any student, staff or financial data has been stolen.

Weiss explained that they have contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice, as well as the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department to file a police report and notify them of this cyber crime.

Since the cost of recreating these files far exceeded $400, staff made the decision to purchase the decryption code.

Moving forward, in conjunction with its Internet service providers, the Richmond School District said it will be upgrading its filtering procedures and virus protection systems. Weiss said they would also be assessing back up and internet security systems.
 

Emails from the District should not be harmful though the district cautions families when opening attachments or clicking on links from emails in general.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Cryptolocker is spread mostly through email and “drive-by” downloads. The email might look like a routine message from a legitimate company, like a tracking notice from a shipping company. Some Reddit users report seeing subject lines like “Payroll Report” or messages that look like voicemail attachments.

If the user clicks on the hyperlink in the email, Cryptolocker encrypts everything on the hard drive and in any shared folders. When the job is done, the user gets a “ransom note” demanding payment via Bitcoin or some other anonymous payment method.

The criminals behind this malware say they’ll give you the encryption key if you pay, but the FTC says they’re hardly trustworthy. “Even then, there’s no guarantee. It’s essentially extortion, with all your personal documents, photos, and files at risk,” the FTC warns.

Weiss said they are in the process of trying to recover the information. While success rates are reported to be rather high, he explained that it will be a few days before they can know for sure.

“These acts of cyber-crime are an unfortunate and becoming all too common occurrence in our society. We will do all we can to prevent these attacks in the future,” Weiss said.

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