Buffalo Schools hit with ransomware event

Remote learning was canceled Friday
Kriner Cash
Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash speaks with reporters Friday, March 12, 2020 about a ransomware attack on the district Photo credit WBEN photo/Brendan Keany

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Remote classes were canceled Friday in Buffalo Public Schools after Superintendent Kriner Cash says the district was hit by a ransomware event.

The district says the IT department immediately went into problem resolution mode reaching out to a number of expert colleagues and professionals who have had experience with these types of events.

"We are in the midst of an investigation to determine what has occurred what is the scope of the problem, how much time will it take to fix it, and what is required to fix it," said Cash.

The district says there has not been a demand yet. The FBI, which is assisting in the investigation, has found out that ransom may be between $100,000-300,000 and could be negotiable. The district adds the primary goal of the team is the recovery of critical systems for the continuity of teaching and learning.

Cash approved an emergency contract with Grey Castle for cyber security investigation. The district’s Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, and Director of Purchase were notified and agreed to the execution of the emergency agreement.

"We anticipate knowing the scope of the problem, the extent of the work required to address the problem, and the time frame to return services to normal over the next few days," said Chief Technology Officer Myra Burden.

But precisely how long this investigation will take is still unknown, and if issues aren't resolved this weekend, then it will certainly present problems carrying over into next week. Cash said school may be canceled Monday and even beyond that if need be, but that determination hasn't been made as of Friday evening.

"This is a criminal action, and we're going to pursue this to the fullest extent of the law," said Cash.

Buffalo School Board President Sharon Belton-Cottman reassured parents that school officials are doing everything in their power to address this situation in timely manner.

"It is unfortunate that we find ourselves, in this place and time, where our school district has been attacked by criminals and that we are subject to their demands," she said. "I want our parents, our students, our community to know that Buffalo Public Schools have been under attack before, and we came back. Guess what? We're still Buffalo strong; we're going to get through this, and we're going to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

The district is scheduled to bring more students back in to buildings as part of a phased return to in-person learning. Most of the district’s 30,000 students have been learning remotely since the coronavirus shut down buildings last March.

Schools have increasingly become targets of cyber attacks with the widespread adoption of education technology.

The FBI has said schools are attractive targets because they hold sensitive data and provide critical public services.