“Worst-case scenario”: Cybersecurity experts confirm school security blueprints stolen in MPS ransomware attack

MINNEAPOLIS — It was known then but it’s even more apparent now: the ransomware attack against Minneapolis Public Schools was massive.

Mark Lanterman, former member of the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force, described it as a “worst-case scenario,” and confirmed that highly sensitive security information, including campus blueprints, alarm schematics and the placement of surveillance cameras, were all among the documents stolen.

“My advice to the school district – get new IT staff because someone fell asleep at the wheel during this event,” Lanterman said bluntly. “The faucet of data was on for a long time. This was not a transfer of data like downloading a movie on iTunes that took 10 minutes. This took hours if not days if not longer. There are hundreds of thousands of files here.”

Emails from Minneapolis Public School officials obtained by WCCO show a nearly two-week delay before the district acknowledged that staff and family members’ personal data could be compromised.

Hackers have since released information onto the dark web, where users are untraceable. Cybersecurity experts warn that anyone associated with the district — current and former students, parents, staff and vendors — should assume they have been compromised until they’ve been told otherwise, and take action to protect themselves.

“Understanding how this breach affects each specific family is important because it will either put your mind at ease or give you and your legal representative a course of action. This should not have happened,” Lanterman added, while also urging parents to demand answers to a series of questions. “What information about my family are you currently storing and how are you storing it? Is it encrypted? Who has access? Is it being stored on a system that’s connected to the internet?”

The breach was first discovered on Feb. 17. A short email sent to Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox says there was a “system incident that has impacted many MPS systems.” The district’s IT services says it was “determining scope and restoring services as quickly as possible.”

An email went out to district families on Feb. 21, which noted that “no data will be lost due to the…