Fairfax school system says ransomware attack did not disrupt remote learning

The Fairfax County public school system is continuing to troubleshoot a ransomware attack discovered Friday, but doesn’t foresee it derailing online instruction.

An update sent Saturday afternoon to the school community said the school system is “working diligently to protect the information of our staff, students and their families.”

The update also said that the ransomware intrusion did not disrupt the school system’s distance learning program.

Lucy Caldwell, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools, told WTOP that she expected no disruptions to remote learning caused by the ransomware in the days or weeks ahead.

One advocacy group for Fairfax teachers has expressed concern over the breach.

“We were shocked to learn that the FCPS system has been hacked,” said Tina Williams, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

Williams said the group is urging Fairfax to do all that it can to protect the personal data of students and the school system’s employees.

Infosecurity Magazine reported that the threat group MAZE has claimed responsibility for the attack, and said that the group has “uploaded a zip file of data they claim was exfiltrated from the school system.”

In its latest update to the school community, FCPS asked staff and students to make no changes to their devices because of the ransomware attack and to continue to use their devices for school-related activities.

This isn’t the first challenge Fairfax County schools has experienced with virtual learning. In April, the school system’s had widespread technical issues, causing it to drop its online learning provider, Blackboard.

Since starting the fall semester with distance learning, other school systems in the D.C. region have experienced disruptions. Loudoun County reported interruptions caused by incidents of students using racial slurs, displaying sexual images or popping into the virtual sessions of other classes or schools.

A number of other jurisdictions, including Montgomery and Charles counties in Maryland, have experienced connectivity issues while trying to conduct online learning this semester.

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