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Norfolk Public Schools took systems offline after Microsoft warned of possible cyberattacks

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Posted at 8:59 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 20:59:47-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk Public Schools told News 3 Thursday that its information technology department took the district's network services offline earlier this week after being alerted of "a strong possibility" of potential cyberattacks within several local school divisions.

On Sunday, the district said virtual classes had been canceled due to network services being offline. School leaders anticipated that services would be restored by 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Several systems were taken offline after school officials detected unusual activity and higher than normal network traffic on October 30.

While the district initially told News 3 there was no threat to the network, on Thursday NPS' Chief Information and Instructional Technology Officer Dr. Michael Cataldo said the district received information from Microsoft about cyberattacks within the region and a strong possibility within several local school divisions.

After being warned of the potential threat and seeing the unusual activity, Cataldo said the district activated its network disaster recovery plan. To prepare for possible cyberattacks, the NPS IT department disconnected the school division's internet connection to reduce chances for further activity.

Cataldo said once school officials determined that no student or staff data had been compromised or released, they began the process of bringing the district's systems back and verifying all data.

Services dedicated to student instruction - like Zoom, Canvas and Google Classroom - were prioritized so classes could resume virtually on Wednesday.

The district's other systems will be brought back online over the next week as they complete the full restoration and data verification process, Cataldo said.

Cataldo's statement can be read in full below:

"Norfolk Public Schools received information initially from Microsoft regarding cyberattacks within our regional area and a strong possibility within several school divisions. On Friday, October 30, 2020, we detected unusual activity and higher than normal network traffic. With the warning of the potential threat and the unusual activity, we activated our network disaster recovery plan. In preparation of potential cyber-attacks, our NPS IT department disconnected the division’s Internet connection to reduce the opportunity for any further activity. Once it was determined that no student or staff data was compromised or released, we began the process of bringing our systems back online and verifying all of our data. In this process we prioritized services dedicated to student instruction (Zoom, Canvas, Google Classroom), so that classes could resume on Wednesday, November 4. Other systems will come online over the following week as we complete the full restoration and data verification process."
Dr. Michael Cataldo, Chief Information & Instructional Technology Officer

Stay with News 3 for updates.