Hillsborough County Schools targeted in cyberattack 

WFLA | By by: Melissa Marino | September 5, 2023

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The FBI is now looking into a cybersecurity breach involving the Hillsborough County School District.

Last week, the district notified staff and parents about the breach.

On Monday, the district confirmed law enforcement was involved, and it had worked “tirelessly” over the weekend with cybersecurity experts to get the impacted systems restored.

“It’s just a real hassle. I think they could probably do a better job and they have to upgrade their security systems,” said parent Mike Spring who’s concerned his children could be at risk. “Loss of identity, and any type of damage or harm that they could cause knowing our children’s information, nobody wants that.”

Dan Holland, a cybersecurity risk advisor with Arete Solutions said that school districts have seen an uptick in attacks because outside vendors and teaching tools can make school systems more vulnerable.

“The tools that are designed for instructional uses often do not have security built into them,” Holland added.

He said cyberattacks on schools typically either involve a student who hacked the system, or something more serious.

“Nobody’s credit credit is more pristine then a child’s. Nobody’s sensitive data, their social security numbers, their personal information, is more valuable on the dark web than the people that are in that K-12 school system currently,” said Holland.

Holland said parents should protect their children’s data the same they would their own.

“They need to question the nature of the data that the school is requesting, and be very careful about how and where they are sharing their sensitive information, especially for their kids,” he continued.

The district sent the following notice to parents on Monday:

“We want to provide you with an update on the cybersecurity incident the district has been addressing since last week.

The district’s monitoring systems effectively prevented widespread disruption. Additionally, we took offline a number of our network connected systems as a preventative measure.

Over the weekend, our Information Technology Services division, along with external experts and consultants, worked tirelessly to restore full function to our core operational systems and collect additional data for further investigation.

The forensic investigation continues as we determine more about how this incident occurred and identify what data, if any, was accessed from HCPS systems. We understand it may be frustrating that more details are not yet available, however, investigations of this nature take time and we want to be sure we are communicating accurate information to our community.

At this point in the forensic review, we have no indication that there was any unauthorized access to data stored in our student information system.

We have been in constant communication with the FBI, FDLE, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office regarding this incident.

We appreciate the efforts and patience of all of our staff, students, parents, and partners as we work through this process. I will continue to provide additional information as it becomes available.”

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