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LA Unified School District targeted in cyberattack

The "external cyberattack" came as students returned to classes after the summer break.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest public school system in the country, was targeted by an "external cyberattack" on Saturday night.

"This is unprecedented," said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at a press conference Tuesday. "We didn't know what systems were being targeted,"

In a statement posted online, district officials said the attack was "likely criminal in nature."

Tuesday marks the start of the 2022-23 school year. Despite the ransomware attack, which may have disrupted some parts of the district's website and some of the employees' email access, schools opened as scheduled. Carvalho said it was shaping up to be "a fairly normal school day."

The attack appears to have been largely thwarted. School employees and students were directed to change their email passwords. The district's computer system for tracking attendance, MiSiS, was restored within two hours.

"We were able to stop the propagation of this event," Carvalho said.

In the statement, LAUSD officials said they detected "unusual activity in its information technology systems over the weekend, which after initial review, can be confirmed as an external cyber attack on our information technology assets."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are investigating the incident.

Carvalho said the district never received any sort of ransom demand. He did not say if there were any clues as to the identity of the attacker.

Ransomware attacks cost schools and colleges in the United States $3.56 billion in 2021, according to a report by Comparitech, which counted 67 different attacks targeting 954 educational institutions.

"Most schools will have also faced astronomical recovery costs as they tried to restore computers, recover data, and shore up their systems to prevent future attacks," the report said.

Oftentimes, hackers ask for a ransom to restore online services. In some cases, schools pay the ransom. According to the report, one school paid $547,000 to hackers last year.

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