M-DCPS’ virtual learning system hit by cyber attack

MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ virtual learning system was hit by a cyber attack, according to the superintendent.

As the district was trying to implement a fix for the issues encountered by teachers and students on Monday, described as a faulty third-party server that acted like a gateway into the portal and virtual learning system, they discovered a cyber attack was simultaneously happening, which blocked students from logging on.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he is confident the cyber attack, along with Monday’s issues, were contributing as to why students could not attend the first day of class in the county.

“In the shadow of this catastrophic failure by Cisco, there was a simultaneous cyber attack taking place utilizing Comcast,” Carvalho said, “basically depriving our students and our teachers from accessing, not only the platforms, but even dadeschools.net. Comcast is now deeply engaged in developing the strategies to prevent a continuation of the cyber attacks.”

At last check, around 218,000 students accessed the district’s platform on Tuesday.

“Despite the perpetrator’s intentions to disrupt the teaching and learning in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and to take away the ability to connect with a teacher that students have not seen for over five months, we had over 218,000 students successfully get through the system and connect,” M-DCPS Chief Academic Officer Marie Izquierdo said. “To those perpetrators out there trying to disrupt teaching and learning in the fourth-largest school district in America, you have failed, and you will be caught. We will continue to prevail, and our teachers and our students and our families will not have their education taken from them.”

A subpoena was served to Comcast to find out more information about the cyber attack. District officials are asking for their records to help law enforcement find out who may be behind the attack.

Comcast released a statement on the cyber attack that read in part, “We understand how important connectivity is for virtual learning during this unprecedented time. We are continuing to monitor the situation and are working with the school district and law enforcement to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

“We have built an electronic road map, digitally going back to identify the source of the attack,” Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez said. “With that said, we are in the final stages of implementing a plan to be able to bring them to justice. We will identify and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

The superintendent added that there are several mitigation efforts underway to prevent another cyber attack from occurring.

“I was frustrated and sad over the experience, and at that time, I did not know the root cause, and I told you we would find out,” Carvalho said. “Today, I am frustrated and angry because Cisco was a terrific partner in rallying all the national talent they needed to solve the problem, and they addressed it. I am not only frustrated with anger over the fact that in the shadow of this problem, there was a malicious attempt — malicious, well-orchestrated, complex attempt — at derailing, destroying the connection, which is essential for our students and teachers.”

Some federal, state and local agencies, including the FBI, are involved in the investigation.

District officials said personal data of students and employees did not get accessed during the attack.

If there is a cyber attack on the third day of class in Miami-Dade County, the superintendent said Comcast has assured them they have the resources and the capacity to try to take care of it.

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