Ransomware Attack on Haverhill Schools Shuts Down Remote Learning, Cancels Thursday’s First Day Back for Some

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

A ransomware attack on Haverhill Public Schools computer networks shut down remote learning, email, telephones and other systems today and will force the cancellation of all classes tomorrow.

Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling said computer systems remained offline in the afternoon and local and federal law enforcement are investigating. A ransomware attack comes from an outside intruder who asks for payment to either restore access to networks or prevent the release of sensitive data.

“Our security system caught the issue before any damage was done and shut itself down (as it is designed to do). We are working to rebuild the network.,” Pfifferling told WHAV by text.

Superintendent Margaret Marotta is notifying families that Thursday will be treated as a “snow day” and that classes will be made up on June 18.

“We are working with our IT consultants, Haverhill Police and Homeland Security to safely return our systems to operational capacity as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is a large task with many, many potential points of potential access that need to be checked before the systems returns to normal operation,” she explained.

The superintendent acknowledged Thursday was to be the day of in-person learning for grades 2, 3 and 4. However, older students who are to remain on remote learning for the rest of the week would have been disadvantaged.

“We know this is heartbreaking for many that were looking forward to a return to something near normal, and we are hopeful that school will resume on Friday, but we are not able to confirm whether or not school will be in session on Friday at this time,” she said.

Pfifferling said the attack came between 3 and 3:30 a.m. and systems automatically shut down which was confirmed by the city’s providers. An initial text message said the attack was triggered by someone opening a file that contained malware, but Pfifferling said the source is still being investigated.

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