Chambersburg Area School District answers some questions about ransomware attack, won’t say if they paid hackers
A statement and FAQ by the Chambersburg Area School District, as shared by TriState Alert, appears below.The district offers its reasons (translation: excuses) for not answering the questions parents and the public really want to know: did the district pay ransom, and was personal information acquired by the attackers?
Although the district did not name the threat actors, BlackByte has claimed responsibility for the attack and posted proof of claims. Among the proof of claim screenshots are files with identifiable students’ personal information — including, in one case, an assessment report on a named student whose achievement testing and behavioral and emotional assessment report was displayed without redaction. Other proof of claim files showed named students and information on bus schedules and locations.
BlackByte has also already made more data from the district available for free download, but the download link was not working at the time DataBreaches attempted to use it. But given that they have already shown proof of acquiring some personal information on students, why won’t the district just admit this already, even if it does not yet know the full scope?
The district’s communication appears below:
Dear CASD Families & Staff,
Since our last Regular Board Meeting update, CASD’s response to this ransomware event has made significant progress and we share the following updates:
- CASD students and staff returned to school on August 31st after three days of school closure. We restored access to critical educational resources and systems for our teachers in order to limit the impact to our students. Our next step was to reestablish our students’ in school 1-to-1 connection with their computer devices (laptops, Chrome books, etc.). We are grateful for the extra effort the teachers and students put in that allowed the education of our students to resume successfully while we worked towards this next step.
- In addition to student computer devices being redeployed into service, our IT team has made significant strides in remediation and restoration efforts. Critical systems have been restored and access to the internet has been reinstated. The work towards 100% restoration is ongoing, but the vast majority of the systems that allow us to function normally are back in service.
- We know that many questions remain, and members of our community want to know more information. In addition to re-securing a functioning network, we are actively investigating the extent to which any personal information may have been impacted in this incident. Although we do not know enough to report any specifics at this time, we expect to know more in the coming days, and will continue to work hard to address all aspects of this event. Should we identify specific personal information has been or may have been compromised, we will take appropriate steps to identify and notify all such individuals. As this process continues, we will continue to provide the community with updates.
- The investigation of this event is still very much ongoing. We have retained data privacy attorneys at Mullen Coughlin LLC, and with them are working with computer forensic and incident response specialists. Our goal remains to determine the full scope and nature of this event, while continuing to restore operations in a secure manner. We have also reported this matter to federal law enforcement and will continue to cooperate with all of these subject-matter specialists.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did CASD pay ransom?
On the advice of our counsel, in order to protect the integrity of the various ongoing investigations, we are not answering this question at this time. We assure you that, CASD is working closely with counsel and law enforcement and taking appropriate action in response to this event.
Was Student/Personal data compromised?
The privacy of all of our data is certainly an extremely high priority. At this time, this question remains under investigation. As soon as we learn more on this question, to the extent any personal data has been impacted, we will be sure to take all appropriate steps to inform those affected.
When will you know more?
We certainly understand that you have more questions, as do we. It is important that we provide accurate, helpful answers to the questions that remain. Right now we do not have any specific timelines, but progress in our investigation, as well as the recovery, is being made every day. We will continue to update the Board and community as this matter continues to be addressed.
Dr. Larry Redding
Chambersburg Area School District