Massachusetts school district shut down by ransomware attack

Ransomware school

The Springfield Public Schools district in Massachusetts has become the victim of a ransomware attack that has caused the closure of schools while they investigate the cyberattack.

Springfield is the third largest school district in Massachusetts with over 25,000 students, 4,500 employees, and more than sixty schools. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district opened in a remote learning model, with a planned transition to hybrid learning towards the end of October.

Today, the district announced on Facebook, Twitter, and with calls to parents that the schools were closed due to “issues” with their network.

Soon after the initial notifications, parents and students were told that the district suffered a cyberattack and that school devices should be shut down.

“My kids are in Springfield and were told to shut down because of a computer virus,” a parent posted to Facebook.

The cyberattack was later confirmed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Superintendent Daniel Warwick, who announced the suspension of remote learning.

“Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Superintendent Daniel Warwick announced today that out of an abundance of caution the Springfield Public School’s (SPS) have issued an early dismissal from school today and have temporarily suspended remote learning due to potential threats to the network that have been identified.”

“Early this morning, the Springfield Public Schools identified a potential threat to their IT network.  To ensure that the District can effectively mitigate the potential incident and restore access to all software and services as quickly as possible, school and remote learning activities are canceled for the remainder of today, Thursday, October 8th, 2020.  It is anticipated that the risk will be cleared and resolved in the near future so that remote learning may continue,” the announcement stated.

Springfield Public School suffered a ransomware attack

A source in the cybersecurity industry has told BleepingComputer that SPS suffered a ransomware attack that was discovered earlier this morning. To prevent the attack’s spread, the school district shut down all systems, leading to the schools’ closure.

Exactly a month ago, on September 8th, the Hartford School District in Connecticut was affected by a ransomware attack that postponed the first day of school.

For Hartford, the cyberattack only delayed the school’s opening for one day.

This delay may be longer for Springfield, depending on the number of devices encrypted by the ransomware attack and how long it takes to restore them.

BleepingComputer has contacted the Springfield mayors office about the attack but has not heard back at this time.

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