A cyberattack on the Sandwich Public School district’s computer serves pulled the plug on the high school and STEM Academy’s remote learning efforts.
As of Thursday, October 15, all students and teachers at the high school and STEM Academy were working remotely because the attack took down the school system’s firewall, making it impossible for someone inside the school buildings to connect to the internet.
Additionally, any teacher at the Oak Ridge or Forestdale schools who teach remote classes were also sent home to teach.
The problems began Thursday of last week, October 8. Technology director Bryce Harper initially identified as a firewall failure.
With the internet in the schools not working, the teachers who conduct remote classes went home to continue with their days, and classes in the buildings were internet-free for the remainder of the day. Friday of last week, October 9, was a professional day for Sandwich teachers, and no classes were held.
“One thing we always knew was that it was not a load issue,” Superintendent Pamela A. Gould said. “OpenCape provides us with high-capacity and high-quality internet access.”
Over the weekend, Mr. Harper and his team installed a new firewall. But the firewall crashed again on Sunday afternoon, October 11. The technology team spent the remainder of that day as well as most of Monday, October 12, working to get another new firewall in place. The firewall worked well for the remainder of Monday.
But Dr. Gould said service began dropping again on Tuesday morning, October 13.
“The newly installed firewall identified this issue as a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack,” she wrote in an email to parents.
A DDoS attack is defined as a “malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of internet traffic.”
Dr. Gould said Sandwich is not the only district dealing with these attacks. The Tyngsboro Public Schools have also been attacked, and in that district the initial investigation appears to point to a physical device being carried into one of the district’s buildings each morning.
“This is not a capacity issue for the district,” Dr. Gould said. “This is something that is happening to us.”
The attack is considered illegal, and as a result Dr. Gould said the district will be working with the Sandwich Police Department to figure out the next steps.
As of yesterday, Dr. Gould said they have determined that the attack is coming from outside the buildings, and better blocking mechanisms have been put into place. No service disruptions have been noted since Tuesday, but out of an abundance of caution remote learning was continued through yesterday. Students and teachers were due to return to the classroom on Friday, October 16.
“OpenCape has been very helpful and is continuing to block excessive traffic of the type that has been attacking us,” Dr. Gould said. “The engineers will continue to watch the attempts through the rest of today and tomorrow when the teachers and students are back accessing it.”