Florida school district software held hostage by ransomware hackers

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Wakulla County schools discovered a ransomeware attack, and the district and its insurer are still trying to decide whether to pay to regain use of some critical software programs.

Wakulla Superintendent Robert Pearce said contact with the hackers was made over the weekend.

"They let us know we were being held ransom, and they assigned a bitcoin amount they wanted, and at this time, I’m not allowed to disclose that because this is still under investigation, and we are still in negotiation,” Pearce said.

No student data was taken, but the attack on the 5,000 student district has shut down software used by students to pay for lunches, details on school bus riders, emails and a library software program.

”We can’t get into those files right now. The good news is we can still operate,” Pearce said.

Investigators and the IT department are still sorting out the depth of the damage. Until that’s known, the option of paying the hackers is still on the table.

Kim Fitzgerald has two nephews in the high school. 

“That concerns me, having to pay, you know? But it's just something that happens nowadays,” Fitzgerald said. "I mean they are able to get into all of our information and do that, so, I guess we’re all kinda held ransom,"

This the third known cyber attack on a rural school district in the state. 

At least two cities have paid a ransom in recent months including Lake City, which had its city networks crippled by a malware attack called Triple Threat.

In addition to the critical software the ransom ware has disabled, about 50 classroom computers have been rendered useless and will likely have to be wiped clean.

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