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District 155 system access 'limited' after ransomware attack, no data breach, officials say

Crystal Lake Community High School District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson looks through papers during a board meeting in November 2017 in Crystal Lake.
Crystal Lake Community High School District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson looks through papers during a board meeting in November 2017 in Crystal Lake.

Access to Crystal Lake Community High School District 155’s information systems currently is limited after its computers were infected with ransomware sometime Friday.

District spokeswoman Shannon Podzimek said on Tuesday that after discovering the attack, the district “immediately” launched an investigation with the assistance of a leading forensic firm, which she didn’t identify, and contacted parents to advise them of the attack. She wrote in an email that district staff “have been working diligently to secure our systems and bring them back online.”

No classes or school days were canceled because of the incident, Podzimek wrote, but “as a precaution,” the district is having its staff members use Chromebooks until the investigation concludes. Students also may continue to use Chromebooks to complete their school assignments.

“As we work to complete the investigation, we will also look for opportunities to further enhance our existing security measures,” Podzimek wrote.

Podzimek did not answer questions as to whether there was a ransom demand from hackers and if the district paid it, or when the ransomware problem would be resolved and normal functioning would resume.

Superintendent Steve Olson wrote in the email on Monday, which was shared by a parent with the Northwest Herald, that the district’s network monitoring systems detected the virus on a number of Windows computers on Friday.

After an analysis, the district said no student data, or other sensitive information, was accessed or compromised during the cyberattack.

The virus did, however, disable several staff computers and laptops. Staff members received Chromebooks to continue with their day-to-day classroom activities, Olson wrote.

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