Schools remain closed in Michigan counties following ransomware attack
HILLSDALE, Mich. — Schools in two Michigan counties have closed their doors following a ransomware incident that has now spanned multiple days.
In a Tuesday update, Jackson County Intermediate School District Superintendent Kevin Oxley said that schools would remain closed on Wednesday. Schools in both Jackson County and Hillsdale County were closed Tuesday and Monday as well.
Oxley stated on Monday that the district’s technology consortium was continuing to experience a systems outage affecting critical operating systems, including but not limited to heating, telephones and classroom technology.
“This outage occurred because we were victims of a ransomware attack detected over the weekend,” Oxley said Monday.
This ransomware attack has impacted schools across counties as, according to local television station WILX-10, Jackson ISD gives technology support and services for districts in both Jackson and Hillsdale counties.
As of Tuesday, Oxley said that Jackson ISD had “made tremendous progress on (the) restoration efforts” but still had “some work to do to ensure every system is safe and secure before bringing them back online.”
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Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks and demands you pay a ransom for their return. Ransomware attacks can cause costly disruptions to operations and the loss of critical information and data.
“Immediately upon discovering suspicious activity, we proactively took systems offline in order to contain the incident,” Oxley said Monday.
The district also has notified law enforcement.
Det. Lt. Mike Teachout of the Michigan Cyber Command Center said the district contacted the agency, which is responsible for the coordination of combined efforts of cyber emergency response during critical cyber incidents in Michigan.
Teachout could not go into the details of the ongoing investigation but said most ransomware incidents involve a demand of cryptocurrency. How long schools might remain closed is up to the districts, he said.
“We’re diligently investigating with the Jackson County ISD and any information they can give us,” Teachout said Tuesday. “We’re looking for the bad guys, 100 percent.”
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In the Tuesday update announcing schools would remain closed on Wednesday, Oxley cautioned against using any school or district-issued devices “until the network is deemed secure.” Jackson ISD will continue to provide updates on restoration efforts.
“The security of our learning environment is a top priority and any attempt to rush this process could unfortunately put our networks at additional risk,” Oxley said. “We have top cybersecurity experts on site who are continuing to work around the clock to resolve this situation and we hope to have additional updates to share soon.”
Contributing: Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY.