Watertown school district hit by malware

Updated: Jul. 29, 2019 at 6:26 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Watertown city school district was struck by computer malware over the weekend.

Security experts from the Mohawk Regional Information Center (MORIC) were at the school district Monday, assessing what damage, if any, was done.

Asked if the district lost data as a result of the malware, School Superintendent Patricia LaBarr told 7 News “not that we’re aware of, but we’re still in the beginning stages of determining that.”

LaBarr said whoever is behind the attack has not demanded money from the district. That’s somewhat unusual, since many malware attacks against large institutions - schools, hospitals, city governments - include a demand for “ransom" and a threat to delete data if the money is not paid.

District computers can barely be used; LaBarr could print documents Monday, but couldn’t access her files, and said “We’ve been told not to log in at this point.”

The good news, such as it is, for the school district is that it didn’t happen during the school year and that “people got on it rather quickly," LaBarr said.

“I knew there was something wrong Saturday morning when I could not access my own email,” she said. By Saturday evening, the district’s own computer expert and security experts with MORIC were certain there was an issue, and notified LaBarr.

As for when things will start to return to normal, LaBarr said she’s hopeful that by Tuesday morning “we can slowly start to bring things back.” But she emphasized the district will be “deliberate” in bringing its computers back on line, moving carefully to make sure the malware is gone.

LaBarr said she had been in touch with both the state education department and Homeland Security Monday.

Other school districts were notified Monday of the malware attack and urged to be vigilant. 7 News contacted several north country districts, and none of them reported problems.

In a statement released Monday night, Jefferson-Lewis BOCES superintendent Stephen Todd said it doesn’t appear as if other school districts were affected.

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