MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. -- The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are working with a Middle Peninsula school system to investigate a ransomware cyberattack.
Middlesex County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tracy Seitz confirmed late Thursday afternoon that the school system experienced a ransomware attack Thursday.
Seitz said staffers are working to determine if any student and staff information was compromised.
“We have been working with law enforcement, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other leading agencies
A ransomware attack is when data gets encrypted and is inaccessible by the owner, according to Milos Manic who is the Director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Cybersecurity Center. He said typically once a payment is made the attacker will typically release the data or information.
The attack on Middlesex happened a day before the last day of classes when students start summer break.
One Middlesex mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said learned about the incident from CBS 6 and had not received a an email or phone call from the district about the attack as of Thursday evening.
“It’s terrifying, " said the mother, whose children attend elementary, middle and high schools in the county. "It can be kind of scary depending on who it is."
In recent months school districts in Minnesota, Boston and West Virginia have also been targeted by ransomware attacks.
Additionally, the Franklin County School District is southwest Virginia was attacked last month.
Former Dinwiddie Schools Superintendent Charles Maranzano said cyberattacks are a major concern because of student records being at risk. However, he said school districts have significant protections in place to prevent these types of problems from happening.
“We are not careless about this stuff. We at all levels are vulnerable," Maranzano said. “We have to take a look at the reality of where we are in a cyberworld and what can we do to prevent this from happening again."
The district has not gotten back to CBS 6 on when the district will notify parents about this attack.
Officials with the school system said they will notify people directly impacted and provide free credit reporting.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.
Here's the full statement from Middlesex County Public Schools:
We can confirm that Middlesex County Public Schools recently suffered a ransomware attack. We took immediate action to begin an internal investigation, creating an incident response team led by our talented IT professionals along with some of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity. Fortunately, the impact on our daily operations has been minimal.
Our priority is confirming if any student or staff’s personal information has been compromised. If that is the case, we will work promptly to notify those individuals and we will provide free credit reporting.
We have been working with law enforcement, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other leading agencies
and are providing information that will hopefully prevent other schools from dealing with this issue in the future. In order not to interfere with any current law enforcement efforts, we cannot provide any additional information.