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Hackers want money to release Haywood County school district files

Hackers want money to release Haywood County school district files
There will be no remote learning in Haywood County schools for a second day after a Ransomware attack against the district's computers. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

There will be no remote learning in Haywood County schools for a second day. A Ransomware attack against the district's computers shut schools down Monday. They'll be shut down again Tuesday.

The hackers want money to unfreeze the district's files. The cyberattack has had a big impact, and district leaders are fighting back.

The Ransomware attack was discovered by school staff early Monday morning.

“It gets hacked. It's ridiculous,” said Emma English, who has four grandchildren in Haywood County schools.

“I have special needs grandkids. It will put them behind drastically,” she said.

The attack into the school district's computers comes just as remote instruction began Aug. 17.

It’s a major frustration to English.

“And parents are having a hard enough time anyway,” she said.

HAYWOOD COUNTY SCHOOLS CLOSED AFTER RANSOMWARE ATTACK

Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte said the hack closed schools and turned Monday into an optional teacher workday.

“Our files are being encrypted, and we have shut it down,” Nolte said.

Parents and staff were notified, and the district's computers were locked down.

“We have fairly elaborate backup systems,” Nolte said.

The hackers are demanding an undisclosed amount of money to unfreeze the school systems' files.

“Someone says, 'Hey,' I'll turn you loose if you'll give us some money.' Which, we have no intention of doing at all. That's not something we would do,” Nolte said.

An investigation was launched immediately.

“FBI, some cybersecurity entities, our folks with the Department of Public Instruction and then our local people,” Nolte said of who was involved in the investigation.

Nolte said it's not clear where the breach took place. The focus is on solving the problem.

“We'll figure out what we need to do to come back up to speed as quickly as we can,” he said. “We do not know how long that will take. That might be quickly in some areas and not as fast in others.”

There will also be a cybersecurity analysis.

“If there are better things to do, we will do them,” Nolte said.

The superintendent is confident the system will be restored.

“We'll get through this. We've gotten through worse,” he said.

“All of us have the Ransomware at one point. But for a whole school system, I hope they shut it down. I know that all they want is money. But this is the worst possible time,” English said. “These Ransomware people that can hack and everything, it's just a ... I hope they find them. I hope they make them pay."

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