FBI investigating after Smyth County Schools targeted by ransomware; employee and student data believed safe

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SMYTH COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – The Smyth County Public Schools are working with the FBI after four servers and some workstations were targeted by ransomware.

According to Technology Director Terry Hawthorne, at some point over the weekend, ransomware was installed to four servers and a few work stations at the central office.

Hawthorne told News Channel 11 that when employees arrived at work Monday, a message popped up with information to contact in order to pay to get back on the computers.

The Smyth County Public Schools has cyber insurance. Hawthorne said the company was immediately contacted to help them. They, in turn, contacted the FBI to help investigate.

According to Hawthorne, the ransomware originated outside the United States.

Hawthorne said an immediate concern was that pay for faculty and staff was due for payment on September 30. He said that the information is housed offsite and uses a different operating system, making it safe. Payroll department employees were set up with Chromebooks to get them online and access to the payroll system.

Also, the servers at the high schools were taken down, even though there’s no evidence the servers were affected. These servers were restored from backups, so students have access to their online classes.

Hawthorne stressed to News Channel 11 that at this time, there is no evidence that student or employee information was compromised in the attack.

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