OKCPS confirms ransomware cyber-attack

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City Public Schools have confirmed they are addressing a recent ransomware attack, compromising the district’s network.

On Monday, OKCPS stated their network was “significantly compromised by a form of malware” and that the issue was “continuing to worsen.” Early Tuesday evening, an updated statement from the district confirmed it was a ransomware attack.

Brett Weber, a professor of cyber-security, told News 4 ‘malware’ stands for malicious software and can disrupt services.

“Maybe not only disrupt, but also delete. I mean, it’s going to do something not good,” Weber said. “A malware is designed to just inflict its damage on anybody, anywhere, anytime.”

Weber said ransomware does disrupt service. The difference is, it typically doesn’t delete data and would be harder for someone to recognize an infiltration in the system. Generally speaking, he said it involves a higher-skilled hacker.

“They’re going to hold your computer system or network hostage, so to speak. Hence, the term ‘ransomware’ until you pay the ransom,” he explained. “If you don’t, then they may say you’re going to be down for so many days or it’s a time limit, or you just have to figure how to get rid of it and go back and reinstall everything and get up to where you were before the attack happened.”

OKCPS officials confirmed Tuesday with News 4, district employees have been asked to not use their emails while the situation is being addressed to help limit exposure. The OKCPS network was shut down beginning 4 p.m. Monday.

“We will have no access to email. We will, however, have access to our cell phones so we encourage you to reach out to us via phone,” a statement from Monday read.

Weber says there are ways the public can better protect themselves from malware such as avoiding certain websites and emails from addresses you don’t recognize.

“If it looks like it’s from a friend or family or coworker, then verify. ‘Hey, did you send this me?’ Check with coworkers. ‘Hey, what is this? Is everyone having to check with IT about resetting your password?'” he explained. “Don’t go to a website if it’s popping up with all these pop-ups, get out of that website.”

As of Tuesday, OKCPS said it is not clear what the ransom amount was. It is also unknown how areas such as testing or transcripts could be affected, if at all.

Updated statement from OKCPS:

“OKCPS continues to address the recent ransomware attack. We are grateful to our staff for their flexibility and for continuing to put students first as our IT Services Teams work with our third-party experts to resolve the issue. OKCPS will provide updates when we have significant progress to report.”

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