The Tenafly, New Jersey, Public School District has canceled final exams for its high school students after a ransomware cyberattack crippled the district’s computer infrastructure.
In addition to having cancelled finals, the district, which ranks in many surveys as being among the top 50 school districts in the country, has been forced to revert for its final days of instruction for the 201-2022 academic year to using paper, pencils, and pre-computer-era overhead projectors instead of its usual high-tech teaching equipment and computer-based tools such as Google Classroom.
According to published reports, immediately after discovering the unauthorized encryption of data by ransomware on some district computers, technology personnel shut down the districtwide computer system, and commenced an investigation along with outside cybersecurity experts.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the district has not, as of yet, disclosed details regarding whether it has paid a ransom or if the identity of the ransom demander is known.
When it comes to cybercrimes, state and local law enforcement officials are rarely a match for cybercriminals; Tenafly’s police chief himself admitted that handling the investigation of the ransomware attack is “way above our capabilities.” As such, while other agencies such as The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police Cyber Crimes Unit have joined the investigation, the FBI is likely to be the primary law enforcement agency handling this matter.
The ransomware attack on Tenafly’s school system is a reminder of a sad, ironic, reality. Despite the fact that many Americans adults first learned about the concept of cyberattacks from the movie War Games in which their introduction to the world of hacking was watching a teenager breach his school’s computer system in order to change grades, American schools and school districts remain woefully vulnerable and unprepared to defend against cyberattacks. Hopefully, the impact of the current ransomware attack on a high-ranked district will underscore for parents, voters, and school administrators, the importance of proactively investing in cyber-protecting our education system.