Horry County Schools struck by 'ransomware' virus - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Horry County Schools struck by 'ransomware' virus

Malware got into the HCS computer system forcing the district to shut down servers and systems. (Source: Christel Bell) Malware got into the HCS computer system forcing the district to shut down servers and systems. (Source: Christel Bell)
Horry County Schools spokesperson Teal Britton. (Source: Christel Bell) Horry County Schools spokesperson Teal Britton. (Source: Christel Bell)
More than 100 servers and systems were shut down to keep the virus from spreading. (Source: Christel Bell) More than 100 servers and systems were shut down to keep the virus from spreading. (Source: Christel Bell)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Schools' computer system was infected with a virus this week. Some type of malware got into the system forcing the district to shut down servers and systems.

“This is the type of virus that seeps in and keeps you from getting to your own information,” said Horry County Schools spokesperson Teal Britton.

It is a specific malware, called 'ransomware' and it will infect a computer system using a high-level encryption to lock up data.  Hackers hold that data for ransom, trying to twist the victim's hand to pay for a key to unlock the data, according to Charles Hucks, Executive Director for HCS Technology Department.

“It was able to penetrate through an old software program that was previously used to share information about construction programs,” said Britton.

HCS says the virus was first discovered on Monday. More than 100 servers and systems were shut down to keep the virus from spreading. 

Britton says it could be the end of next week before everything is back to normal at all schools within the district. 

The district's data is backed up and the HCS Technology Department has been working non-stop to fix the problem. “We are in the process of cleaning that back up and restoring from our saved files,” Britton explained.

She added the hackers are demanding between $7,000 and $8,000 to unlock the data. However, the school system has not agreed to pay anything yet. 

Teachers at schools throughout the district have had to re-arrange their lesson plans. Britton adds that Wi-Fi services are operational at certain schools. She says the limited access in some schools has nothing to with the virus. "The loss of access was actually us taking preventative steps to keep anything from spreading further," said Britton.

Teachers are unable to enter student grades in Power School, the daily report system that gives parents alerts and access to their child's grades. Students are still able to use their Ipads and tablets, Britton says there are applications and programs installed on the devices that are functional without internet connection.

“Teachers are probably the best problem solvers that we know of, and they have been using their own ingenuity,” says Britton.

The district assures parents and educators the ransomware virus did not steal or share any personal information.

“Parents need to know their information about their child, employee information about our 5,500 plus employees, your health records, and your education records were not compromised,” Britton firmly stated. 

This is considered an international breach, Britton said the federal authorities have been notified to open an investigation. 

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