Law enforcement expert reacts to cyber hacks in Massachusetts schools

This is a photo of Joseph Case High School in Swansea. (WLNE)

SWANSEA, Mass. (WLNE) — Cyber attacks have affected two schools in Bristol County in the past few weeks.

In Swansea, all public schools in town were closed Wednesday after a ransomware attack at Case High School shut down the district’s network.

It’s unknown at this time how hackers got into the system, or how long the schools could be shut down due to the breach.

Wednesday morning, Swansea Superintendent John Robidoux tweeted that the school is examining the extent of the attack to determine if any sensitive information was breached in the process.

Swansea is not the only school in Southern New England that’s dealt with cyber issues recently.

Last week, Bristol Community College announced it had a ransomware encryption attack on its systems in December. The college said it hasn’t found any evidence at this time that leads them to believe the hackers got away with any personal information.

Todd McGhee, a law enforcement expert, told ABC 6 News these ransomware attacks have become more common in schools recently, showing an alarming trend for school safety.

“Organizations need to take better safeguards and greater protections against a very sophisticated attacker,” McGhee said.

He also added that these ransomware attacks could be dangerous in the case that a school is attacked and is forced to go into lockdown, as there could be blocked communication between the building and local law enforcement.

When asked if schools should consider paying potential hackers in the case of a cyber-attack, McGhee was undecided.

“The best practices moving forward are things like protecting the institution by having some level of insurance,” McGhee said. “So, if there is a decision to pay the ransomware there is some type of financial protection in place.”

“However that’s a slippery slope,” he added. “That incentivizes the attacker to come back and continue their attacks against the institutions.”

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