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Albuquerque schools confirm ransomware attack, resume class

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Public Schools officials said Tuesday a cyber threat that forced the district to cancel classes for two days last week was a ransomware extortion attack.

Ransomware attacks hold institutional data hostage, such as by locking it away through encryption and offering the key to access it in exchange for money. In Albuquerque, that included the student information system, which records attendance, emergency contacts, and lists of which adults are authorized to pick up which children from school.

Personal data can be repurposed by cybercriminals to commit other crimes, such as identity fraud, but school officials say they don’t think that happened.

“At this time, there is no evidence that information about staff, students and families was compromised,” said Albuquerque school district superintendent John Elder.

Two days of closures last week affecting some 75,000 students will have to be made up later in the year, like snow days.

Many details of the attack are being withheld citing an ongoing investigation into the hackers. Elder declined to say if a ransom has been paid, and said that such a measure would be a “public process.”

Classes resumed Tuesday thanks to a workaround that allowed teachers to access the student information systems, Elder said.


Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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