Huntsville schools: Social Security numbers at risk in ransomware attack


Huntsville city schools confirmed today that personal information including Social Security numbers of teachers and staff may have been exposed to hackers in a recent ransomware attack on the district’s computer system.

The system has “not uncovered any information that the district’s information was stolen or leaked,” Superintendent Christie Finley said in a video posted today on the school system’s website. The system has not been contacted to pay any ransom, the superintendent said, and it has made no payments.

But the system is “treating all information that was locked down as having been taken by the attacker” in an abundance of caution, the system said. Personal information that may have been exposed includes:

1. State student identification numbers for 2013, 2016 and 2020

2. Email addresses of parents linked to those ID numbers in 2020

3. Social Security numbers of school district employees between 2010 and 2020, contractors who worked for the system during the same decade and students who participated in a club called “Fantastic Four” during calendar year 2008.

“I know this isn’t the news you wanted to hear,” Finley said in a video posted today, “and it certainly is not the news I wanted to share.”

The system also offered a special temporary telephone number for parents, staff and educators to call for more information: 256-428-7773. That number will be operative Dec. 21-23 and 28-30 and Jan. 4-8. And Finley said the system is planning to reopen schools to students after the winter holiday.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, school officials said the 23,000-student system’s financial information was “not affected” by the hack. A Huntsville police inspector also said the investigation seeking those who committed the attack is “ongoing.”

Finley said system employees have worked overtime and made changes to computer systems, but she “can’t say this won’t happen again.” That is the world as it is now, Finley said, noting that the Pentagon itself was just hacked. That was a reference to last week’s federal government acknowledgment that Russian hackers had entered computer systems at the Pentagon, State Department, Treasury…

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