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Malware infects North Babylon School District computer network

North Babylon superintendent Glen Eschbach during a school

North Babylon superintendent Glen Eschbach during a school board meeting, Nov. 13, 2018, at Robert Moses Middle School. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The North Babylon School District's computer network was infected by a ransomware virus, temporarily disabling its email system and bringing distance learning to a halt for more than 2,200 students, Superintendent Glen Eschbach told parents in a letter Monday.

The malware attack, Eschbach said, encrypted computerized files on the district's internal network and prevented officials from sending or receiving emails. The district's email system was restored Tuesday. The hack did not involve any student, staff or financial data.

In response, the district temporarily shut down its entire network and connections to and from district-issued Chromebooks. The district issued Chromebooks to all of its 1,418 high school students and to another 800 to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, officials said.

"The shut down of our network means that any student using one of our district devices will not have access to any instructional materials," Eschbach said in the letter, adding that he anticipates students will be back online Wednesday. "Students not using district-issued devices will continue to have access to instruction as normal with the exception of programs that are accessed via Classlink."

Eschbach said North Babylon's on-site network engineer caught the issue early enough to prevent a systematic spread or additional damage to district files. The district notified the State Education Department and the New York State Center of Intelligence.

"We are still investigating the full extent of the attack. However, at this time, we have determined that the district will not need to pay any ransom to retrieve its files or decrypt any files," Eschbach said.

Officials expect only one day of lost instruction for those using district-issued devices — roughly half the North Babylon student population.

Students and teachers can still access Google Classroom — a cloud based network — on their personal devices during the network shutdown, he said. Few North Babylon teachers work on district-issued devices, Eschbach said.

 "All students have been given generous due dates and timelines during this time and there will be no negative impact to students’ grades," the superintendent said in a statement to Newsday.

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