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Centennial School District confirmed a recent computer attack was ransomware and said its computers are still offline.

COURTESY PHOTO: CHRISTIAN WIEDIGER FOR UNSPLASH - Centennial School District computers are still offline due to a ransomware attack in late April.

Centennial School District confirmed Wednesday, May 5, that the attack on its computers was ransomware and although its computers are still offline, it expects students will be back to online learning by May 14.

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

In a ransomware attack, hackers disable computer systems and then demand payment to make the computers work again.

"The District can now confirm that the file encryption that it observed was the result of a ransomware attack by sophisticated cyber criminals," the district said in a statement on Wednesday.

Carol Fenstermacher, the district's chief communications officer, declined to reveal how much ransom the hackers had asked for or where the attack originated from.

An outside cybersecurity and digital forensics firm hired by the district is still working to determine if the hackers got any personal or sensitive data.

The district took all of its systems offline as a precautionary measure to help contain the incident.

Centennial closed schools for several days because all its computers were offline.

Students are attending school in-person a few sessions per week in the hybrid model. But the rest of the time, when they should be learning online in the hybrid model, the schools have provided paper curriculum packets for students to replace the online learning.

Fenstermacher said that remote, online learning should resume by the end of the week of May 10-14.

The district immediately launched an internal investigation and hired the cybersecurity and digital forensics firm. The firm is helping the district respond to the breach by ensuring the incident is contained, and is 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.  

Hospitals, government agencies, businesses, individuals and other school districts have been targeted in these ransomware attacks. News reports say Buffalo Public Schools, Southern California's Newhall School District and Florida's Broward County School District have been among those hit.

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