Riverhead Schools: computer system damaged by possible “cyber incident”

The Riverhead School District’s computer system was damaged by a possible “computer incident” that crippled its email and internet services, district officials said Friday.

District officials said they discovered the issue on Friday and are investigating the source of the outage.

“Preliminary reports indicate this may be from a cyber incident,” the district said in a written statement.

A cyber incident is a breach of the security of a system to affect its integrity or availability, or unauthorized access to a system, according to the National Center for Cyber ​​Security.

The announcement of the cyber incident came just days after the Riverhead Board of Education adopted a cyber incident response plan on Tuesday.

Officials said the full extent of the damage remains unclear. The incident did not affect the district’s student management systems, as this data is housed off-campus. School phone lines remain operational, officials said.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore did not respond to interview requests.

The Riverhead School District has about 6,000 students and 400 teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Chief Technology Officer Robert Hines said the district has already placed advanced firewalls between the system and the internet.

The district has also improved email security, he said, noting that the vast majority of cyberattacks start with an email.

He also noted that the district’s wireless infrastructure needs to be improved to handle the district’s system growth.

“The safety of the school network is of paramount concern to all of us,” Hines said during the meeting. “As a school district, we have risen to the occasion and are implementing practices and solutions that help protect our schools from attack and comply with the law.”

Several Long Island school districts have been victims of cyberattacks that crippled their systems for days and weeks as they dealt with them.

A September 14 ransomware attack on the Manhasset district created weeks of havoc for the district’s phones and voicemail, Wi-Fi, the cafeteria shopping system, and teachers’ access to school plans. lessons and tests.

Cyberattacks and breaches against school systems are becoming more aggressive and damaging, exposing personal information and costing taxpayers a lot of money to fix school technology and, in some cases, pay ransoms to recover stolen data. according to experts.

School districts are prime targets for cybercriminals because they hold an abundance of information about local staff, students, and households that can be stolen and used for identity theft and fraud.

On Long Island, 13 districts experienced cyberattacks or data breaches from 2018 to 2020, according to K12 Security Information Exchange. These are: Rockville Center, Montauk, Port Jefferson, Mineola, Sag Harbor, Lindenhurst, Oceanside, Bay Shore, Lynbrook, Miller Place, Remsenburg-Speonk, Great Neck and Floral Park-Bellerose.

Gordon K. Morehouse