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Students won't have classes all this week after unknown actors installed malware

COURTESY PHOTO: PHILLIPP KATZENBERGER FOR UNSPLASH - Centennial School District has closed schools the week of April 26-30 after its computer systems were breached.

Centennial School District extended its closure for the remainder of the week after it announced Monday that the district computer systems were breached.

The East County district initially said it would be closed Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28, but Tuesday night extended the closure through Friday, April 30.

"Due to the unauthorized intrusion into the Centennial School District's computer system, schools will remain closed for students in all programs for the remainder of the week," the district said Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday evening the school board gathered in an online emergency meeting that lasted only a few minutes. It voted to authorize the funds to allow the district to hire an outside firm to untangle the computer mess.

The district plans to resume some form of instruction Monday, May 3, Tuesday's announcement said.

Teachers and staff will work Thursday and Friday preparing packets of materials for distribution to students, so that learning can continue next week in case the computer system is still unavailable.

Centennial will contact families later this week with instructions on where to pick up those packets, Tuesday night's announcement said.

The school district said Monday, April 26 that it "discovered that certain files on its systems were encrypted by an unknown actor."

Although the district will only say that malware was installed in the computer system, many school districts nationwide have been hit by so-called ransomeware. In a ransomware attack, hackers disable computer systems and then demand payment to make the computers work again.

News reports say Buffalo Public Schools, Southern California's Newhall School District and Florida's Broward County School District have been among those hit. Hospitals, government agencies and businesses have also been targeted with ransomware.

Centennial students have been learning in the so-called hybrid model in recent weeks, attending class part-time and learning remotely the rest of the time.

The Centennial district took all of its systems offline as a precautionary measure to help contain the incident, the earlier announcement said. That makes teaching remotely difficult.

The district launched an internal investigation of the hack and can now hire a cybersecurity and digital forensics firm.

The firm will help the district respond to the incident by ensuring the incident is contained, remediating impacted systems and conducting a forensic investigation.

The district also reported the incident to federal law enforcement and will cooperate with any investigation by law enforcement, it said.  

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