Ransomware cyberattack on Tenafly schools computer system cancels final exams

A cyberattack on the Tenafly School District's computer system has led to a cancellation of all final exams and a return to "old school" learning methods.

The ransomware attack was first noticed last week by students and teachers trying to access files, district officials said.

"We immediately contacted the technology team and a response plan was put in place to isolate devices and contain the incident," said district webmaster and communications manager Christine Corliss.

Typically, in ransomware incidents, those behind the attack demand payment. Corliss said she does not know what is being demanded of the district.

Similar attacks have targeted other districts, government agencies and businesses.

Since students and teachers won't be able to access the learning materials needed, final exams have been canceled and won't be rescheduled.

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Corliss said students' private information was not compromised, as the attack focused on the district's computer system servers.

The incident is being investigated by the FBI cyber attack unit, local authorities and the internal technology team at the district.

As of Wednesday, all staff and students were able again to use their Google work spaces online, a system used for lessons and exams.

"We're well on our way," Corliss said about returning to normal.

Ransomware incidents

Tenafly schools are not alone. Hackers have attacked numerous systems throughout the state. About three dozen government entities reported being victims of data breaches since 2019, according to the state police. Because there is no mandatory reporting of such incidents, the true number of breaches isn’t known, experts say.

Hackers took over a dozen computer servers at Asbury Park schools, taking them offline for a week just months after the start of the school year. The district paid a $49,000 ransom to restore order.

And when someone launched malware on systems that power the government of Wildwood Crest, the beachside borough with 3,000 residents agreed to pay a ransom of 1 bitcoin, worth at the time about $7,500.

Roselle paid at least $150,000 for lawyers and an internet technology company to respond to a 2019 ransomware attack, according to invoices obtained by the Trenton Bureau of the USA TODAY Network through requests under the Open Public Records Act.

And in Mercer County, hackers stole $660,000 in an international cybercrime scheme in which they broke into the government email system and tricked an employee into sending funds by posing as a vendor, a spokeswoman said.

This story contains information from a report by Staff Writers Stacey Barchenger and Dustin Racioppi.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Cyberattack disables Tenafly school computers; final exams canceled