Some RSS computers still not functional after December cyberattack

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

SALISBURY – Many Windows-based computers in Rowan County schools have been down for more than a month after the district suffered a cyberattack at the end of December.

The attack brought down district systems, and primarily affected Windows computers. As of this week, staff machines are functional, but those used for career and technical education classes and in the cafeteria are still in the process of being restored. Apple devices were largely unaffected by the attack.

RSS Chief Technology Officer David Blattner said the machines should be restored next week. If the process hits any delays, it could postpone restoration another week or more. He said the district has no plan to purchase replacement computers.

“We have not priced them at this time,” Blattner said in a statement. “Our issue is not a hardware issue. So, pricing replacement computers was not necessary.”

There are a number of classes that depend on the machines: Adobe programs, game art design and animation, Microsoft Excel, computer science principals, Python and accounting at the high school level. At the middle school level, the machines are used for computer science discovery and technological systems classes, word processing as well as Microsoft Office applications.

A statement from RSS provided to the Post says in classes dependent on software, teachers have been modeling tasks and showing students video demonstrations in the meantime.

The cyberattack incident occurred on Dec. 29. While the exact nature of cyberattacks is covered under state confidentiality laws, the district contacted the North Carolina Joint Cyber Task Force to help restore its systems.

At the time, the district technology staff received commendations for identifying the breach quickly and preventing any sensitive information from being stolen. The state task force determined the incident was in fact an attack and not a system failure.

In addition to affecting Windows-based machines, the incident took down the district’s servers, internet service and printing network. Most services were able to be restored quickly after the attack. Phone service was back in two days, core systems in three and internet in four.

It did not affect the district’s finances, payroll or human resources systems.

The National Guard also sent staff to collect data on the incident. State task force member Sharon Tufts told the RSS Board of Education the district was lucky to not have information stolen and sold because that happens in most cases.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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