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Wakulla County School Board votes to negotiate with hackers after ransomware attack

Posted at 12:47 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 17:20:12-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — The Wakulla County School Board has voted to negotiate a payment to the hackers who are holding the school district's data for ransom.

Wakulla County Schools Superintendent Robert Pierce says the school board had an emergency meeting Wednesday night to discuss what to do after a ransomware attack crippled the schools systems.

He says the board voted unanimously to negotiate a payment to get their systems back from hackers. That exact amount, which will be reimbursed by the district's insurance, has not been agreed upon yet.

About two weeks ago, the the 5,000-student district experienced a "disruption" as a result of a ransomware attack. The school board didn't notify the public about the attack until Sept. 10.

In the ransomware attack, hackers encrypted the district's email, bus routes, library and food service systems, according to The Wakulla News.

There's no indication that hackers accessed payroll or student information. Because the district's email has been compromised, school officials say the best way to communicate is via phone call.

Hackers much like those who took over Wakulla County School district encrypt your files and ask for money. Not regular money, but Bitcoin. This form of payment has become valuable to hackers as it's hard to trace.

Wakulla County Schools said in a statement, "As we work to complete the investigation, we will look for opportunities to further enhance our existing security measures."

The Wakulla County Sheriff's office says they are assisting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with it's investigation into the ransomware attack. A forensics team, an IT team and the district's insurance company is also assisting in the investigation.

The announcement of the cyberattack comes on the heels of a similar announcement by the Jackson County School District. At least two North Florida cities have paid a ransom including Lake City, which paid a half-million dollars to gain back control of its computers.