Recovery continues in Wood County schools after 2019 ransomware attack

WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. — The new year is underway in public schools in Wood County with recovery work still continuing following last fall’s ransomware attack that knocked the entire school system offline.

“Everything’s up and running at this time, but we’re still working through a couple of kinks in our technological systems,” Will Hosaflook, Wood County superintendent of schools, recently told MetroNews.

Will Hosaflook

All student iPads are now fully in operation along with computers for teachers.

Some remote desktop connections, though, were still creating issues while a switch to a cloud-based program for system management continued, a replacement for a server-based program.

The entire management system used previously was lost in the attack.

In ransomware attacks, malicious software encrypts files on computers and replicates itself leading, in some cases, to full lock outs from a system.

For Wood County schools, the system controlled all kinds of technology in schools, including phones, security cameras and door schedules.

“The way we found out the virus was in our system were the doors,” Hosaflook said.

“The doors — they were opening and locking, opening and locking, opening and locking and that was the first place the virus did hit.”

A full system rebuild was necessary with IT workers physically pulling out hard drives for every computer in Wood County’s schools, checking them and then reinstalling.

Servers were wiped clean.

“So many people helped out, loaned people to rebuild our systems and it was really a help and I was really pleased and very thankful that we had so much community support,” Hosaflook said.

During the rebuilding process, new backup systems have been created, more updated programs have been installed and other improved security steps have been taken.

Slowly now, “Everything’s really getting back to normal,” Hosaflook said. “We’re rebuilding the entire network.”

Damages were covered through the Wood County school system’s insurance policy through the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management.

“The most important advice that I could give all other, not only school systems, but everyone else is to make sure you have strong passwords,” he said.

“Make sure that you’re saving your information in multiple locations. Don’t really rely just on that thumb drive or USB drive to store things. Make sure you go to the cloud and make sure you store things secure in the cloud.”

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