Wood County Schools rebuild continues after ransomware attack

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Wood County School Superintendent Will Hosaflook says it’s impossible to predict when things will get back to normal in his school system following a ransomware attack that took place on Nov. 6.

Will Hosaflook

“We now at least have one computer that has internet in every single school and that’s progress,” Hosaflook told MetroNews Thursday. “It’s coming up slowly and we just have to be very methodical in our approach in bringing the internet back up because we don’t want to re-infect our system.”

Wood County, like all other school systems, has protections in place to guard against things like ransomware but Hosaflook said, like one cyber expert told him, it’s like getting the flu after you’ve had the flu shot.

“This (computer) virus can be replicated and a different strain of that virus goes off and infects the machine,” Hosaflook said.

Ransomware is defined as “is malicious software which encrypts files on your computer or completely locks you out.”

A total rebuild of the school system’s computer system is taking place. IT workers are physically pulling out the hard drives of every computer in the county, checking them for the virus and putting them back in. Servers also have to be wiped clean, Hosaflook said.

“We’re getting help from other school systems, local companies, the Cyber Security Task Force, state Department of Education and the West Virginia National Guard,” he said.

Wood County has been able to keep its payroll on time and pay vendors thanks to the state’s centralized West Virginia Education Information System (WVIES). Hosaflook said he’s been able to send finance staff members to other counties where they’ve been able to sign on to WVIES and complete necessary work.

“This makes sure payroll doesn’t stop and vendors are paid. Thank goodness for WVIES,” he said.

Wood County has been given computer time at the Ritchie, Pleasants, Jackson and Wirt county school systems to complete the finance work.

Hosaflook said most phones, including individual school intercom systems are back up and running along with security camera systems and electronic doors. He said they wanted to address student safety issues first.

The most difficult part of the past week, according to Hosaflook, is the manpower that’s needed to do things the operating system usually takes of.

“It paralyzed the system to a degree. Sometimes you take for granted doors coming open at 7:45 in the morning and locking at 8 o’clock. Now you have to have someone at the door to let people in,” Hosaflook said.

He gives credit to faculty and staff throughout the county who have adjusted and gone above and beyond. He said there have been a lot of changes during the past week but one key thing hasn’t changed.

“The core process of learning hasn’t changed, the teacher and the student. The teacher and the student are the core process and it continues,” Hosaflook said.

The damage created by the ransomware attack is covered under the school system’s insurance policy through the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM).

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