Malware attack sets Liberty back

Kaitlyn Keyes, Photography Editor

The day they returned from winter break, Liberty students came to school to find that something was amiss. It wasn’t until they entered their first period classes and found their teachers without the ubiquitous use of technology that they learned what it was: a malware attack.
“The malware attack that the Issaquah School District suffered is known as ryuk ransomware. Essentially, the attack went through the file systems on the servers and encrypted everything,” technology specialist Ryan Schump said. “On the desktops it left a web page link to contact the perpetrators and—should the district choose to pay—get the decryption key to get the encrypted files back.”
The perpetrators of the attack are unknown, but based upon the attack, it is likely that it was propagated by members of another country, making it incredibly hard to trace the attack back to the attackers.
“Because everything is linked to BitCoin or other non-traceable accounts, it’s very hard to track such down specifically,” Schump said.
Luckily for Liberty students and teachers, the district already had processes in place to solve the issues surrounding the encrypted files. In this situation, using backups from before the ryuk ransomware attack, the district was able to restore the file systems that the attack encrypted.
However, in addition to the problems related to file retention and encryption, the malware attack also created many other problems for Liberty and the Issaquah School District. One area in particular that the malware attack proved to be particularly disruptive in was communication.
“The malware attack caused everybody’s district emails to stop working, making it impossible to receive and send out information, no matter whether it was from teachers to students, other schools trying to contact us, or us trying to communicate with students,” Liberty principal Sean Martin said.
Another major cause for headache induced by malware attack was that it made it impossible for teachers to retrieve materials. Anything that was saved on the server—whether it was documents, records, assignments, or something else—was inaccessible during the attack.
In order to combat similar attacks going forward, the Issaquah School District has already begun establishing new security measures in the near future.
“We have begun transferring to other programs such as Office365 and OneDrive and saving files outside of only the central server which will hopefully prove to be less vulnerable to any similar form of malware seeing that it’s a cloud based system and not a contained server,” Martin said.
The district is also planning on requiring students and teachers to develop stronger passwords in order to prevent something akin to this attack in the future.
Nevertheless, one thing is clear: malware is a growing problem. What with the continual advancements of technology, malware is slowly becoming a more and more serious issue which Liberty students should definitely be aware of.
“This incident is definitely a wake up call,” technology specialist Daniel Dang said. “Everyone can take more precaution in ensuring their account security.”