Board passes motion to allow Wolcott superintendent to pay ransom after cyber attack

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A cyber-attack compromised data from Wolcott Public Schools and now hackers are demanding a ransom.

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WOLCOTT, CT (WFSB) — A cyber-attack compromised data from Wolcott Public Schools and now hackers are demanding a ransom.

For weeks, the district chose to handle it internally and town leaders are split on that decision.

The district has not paid anything at this point and the Wolcott police chief wants to keep it that way.

On August 26, a Board of Education meeting was held to discuss the benefits and risks of paying the ransom.

The Board passed the motion 6-1 to authorize the superintendent to spend $9,999 to pay the ransom through Bitcoin for the release of teacher files.

Channel 3 spoke with cyber security experts about why victims often pay.

Thursday was the second day of the new school year and the Wolcott School District is racing to restore its computer system.

Police Chief Edward Stephens told Channel 3 the district received an email on June 13 writing its data is now hostage, otherwise known as ransomware.

The cyber assault affected three servers. Police said only the high school, middle school and central officer had a backup server.

The district recovered some data but is still locked out. Now it’s considering negotiating a deal.

Mayor Thomas Dunn spoke to Channel 3 on the phone saying he hopes this idea is shelved.

“The opinion is, I don’t want to see any of our money go to something like that,” Dunn said.

In fact, the mayor is a member of a coalition of mayors that declared it’s against ransomware.

Andrew Tyler, from the IT company, Kelser Corporation, said most often victims cave into the demands if they don’t have a backup system or the money to rebuild from scratch.

“It’s a business decision for everyone to make as to what other choices you have,” Tyler said.

Chief Stephens learned of the ransomware attack after reading an article on Wednesday.

He says investigators are meeting with federal agencies like the FBI to track those involved.

“The problem is it’s not a good business deal,” Chief Stephens said.

Knowing there’s no such thing as an honest hacker, Chief Stephens questions whether the attackers won’t strike again if ransom is paid.

“If things go the way I want them to go, there will not be any payments to anybody,” Chief Stephens said.

The superintendent declined to comment for the second day in a row while the Board of Education chair has not responded to our requests.

Superintendent Anthony Gasper released a press release saying, “We take serious our fiscal responsibility in utilizing taxpayers’ dollars but we must also balance this against helping our teachers deliver the best-possible education to Wolcott’s children.”

Cyber experts say hackers are targeting smaller entities because they notice many have no invested much in IT security.

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