TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)– All Baltimore County Public Schools closed Wednesday after the school system was hit with a ransomware cyber attack, according to officials.
“This morning, we decided to close all BCPS schools and offices in order to access and limit the impact of the attack,” Baltimore County Public Schools Superintended Dr. Darryl Williams said.
The district said its entire network system is now inaccessible after an unknown actor took over and demanded ransom.
Officials have not yet said how much money they want.
“We are in the preliminary steps of the investigation, and while I know that there is an interest in more information, at this time, we are just not able to provide anything additional,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said.
The FBI released a statement later Wednesday. They said they’re aware of the issues with BCPS:
“The FBI takes all cyber-crime seriously and is aware of the cyber-attack at Baltimore County Schools today. Per our usual policy, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. However, when the FBI learns about intrusions, it’s customary that we offer our assistance in these matters, especially when it has such a direct impact on our community.”
Officials said this all started late Tuesday night.
Parent Amy Adams said she thought something was off during a virtual school board meeting.
“I was tuned in to the board meeting last evening and about at about 10:30 p.m. I noticed the screen just went blue,” Adams said.
Baltimore City Schools said they are also aware of the computer network issues with County Schools. They urged students learning virtually Wednesday to only use City Schools-issued laptops or devices.
Those without those issued devices were granted an excused absence.
City Schools is aware of computer network challenges today in Baltimore County schools. Students participating in virtual learning should only use City Schools-issued laptops or devices. Students without access to a City Schools-issued device will be granted an excused absence.
— Baltimore City Public Schools (@BaltCitySchools) November 25, 2020
PC Matic CEO and founder Rob Chang issued the following statement, referencing the Baltimore City government computer system hack that happened last year.
“Just 18 months after the Robinhood variant of the ransomware virus was able to cripple Baltimore’s government computer systems, and on the eve of Thanksgiving 2020, Baltimore has yet again fallen victim to a ransomware attack. This attack, targeting Baltimore County Public Schools, and bringing their operations to a halt, should serve as a wake up call for government officials. Parents, teachers, and students should demand that their local leaders prioritize cybersecurity, and put in place proactive, preventative solutions that can stop these sorts of attacks from occurring again. These solutions can prevent student and/or taxpayer data from falling into the wrong hands and can further prevent interruptions in operations due to poor cybersecurity protocols. Cybercriminals clearly have taken interest in exploiting Baltimore’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and residents will continue to be at risk until government leaders step up to the plate and deploy these common sense solutions.”
The Teachers Association of Baltimore County is telling parents to leave computers off and not turn it on until they hear back from BCPS. They also said the system is infected.
“Whoever did this, however it happened, whatever their goal was, this is affecting the students’ ability to get their instruction,” Cindy Sexton, of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said.
No further information has been made available at this time.