District-Wide Computer Virus

Rae Smith, Opinions Editor

A computer virus attacked district servers over the summer, causing numerous delays to scheduling and class syllabi. Luckily, all data encrypted by the virus has been recovered from backups apart from a few external drives not managed by the district. As for how the virus originally came into contact with district computers, not much is known.

“We don’t know how it got into the system because it erases itself as it propagates  it was a new and very sophisticated attack, not recognized by current antivirus software,” Supervisor of Instructional Technology Jennifer Smith said. “The virus was meant to encrypt data and ask for money to decrypt. Louisiana had the same virus and one school district paid half-a-million to decrypt their data and was only able to recover half of it.”

In total, three Louisiana school districts were hit with a similar virus in July, and actually caused a state of emergency to be declared by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. State officials and homeland security provided technical support to the districts while police, the Louisiana National Guard, and the state Office of Technology Services worked together to determine a way to prevent viruses in the future. Luckily, technicians were able to recover almost everything without state intervention. 

 “While inconvenient to LISD, we were able to load backups to all of our data. We suffered no loss of data and paid no ransom,” Smith said. 

While the virus was undoubtedly made by professionals and posed a serious threat to district security and financial records, the technology department handled the situation well.

“We have some very intelligent people working in a very small technology department,” Smith said. “We have three technicians, two analysts, and one tech director to service the entire district’s technical needs. My staff ITS assists in any way that we can.”

Currently, the department is shifting its focus to virus prevention and computer safety. Teachers, with multiple emails and more sensitive data, are particularly at risk. 

“It’s an opportunity to learn proper computer safety,” Smith said. “Ultimately, I think the problem lies with the humanness of users because that’s what virus writers exploit. I think it’s important for users to educate themselves about what they should be clicking.”