Miami-Dade Schools fending off cyberattacks in first week back

In a virtual meeting with School Board on Wednesday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the...
In a virtual meeting with School Board on Wednesday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district was again hit with cyberattacks.(CBSMiami)
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 1:07 PM EDT
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Miami-Dade students and teachers were hoping for a better third day of school after software technical issues and cyberattacks caused problems on the first two days of the new school year.

It was not.

In a virtual meeting with School Board on Wednesday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district was again hit with cyberattacks.

One, he said, was a “massive attack” that led to the same circumstances as Tuesday which caused bottleneck issues and kicked some off the platform.

“They are coming from a variety of places. Yesterday’s attacks we know some of them came outside of the country. We know some of these attacks came from local entities, but that is where we are,” he said.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools chief academic officer Marie Izquierdo told the board they were hit with 12 cyberattacks that began at 8:19 a.m. that brought down internet connectivity.

On Wednesday morning, the district alerted parents to the continuing cyberattacks.

Although thousands of students were able to log on to their online school program, many others could not and had to resort to Zoom.

The intermittent cyberattacks actually started Monday morning. They are called a DDOS attack or a Distributed Denial of Service Attack.

“There was a malicious attempt, a malicious well-orchestrated complex attempt at derailing the connection which is essential for our students and teachers,” said Carvalho on Tuesday.

The superintendent said none of the attacks were able to penetrate the district’s cyber wall.

The FBI, FDLE, and Secret Service have all been notified about the attacks. A subpoena has been issued to Comcast for all records needed to determine the origin of the cyberattack.

Comcast, which first claimed “there were no anomalies” later released a statement to apologize for the issues.

“Comcast has a longstanding relationship with the Miami Dade County Public Schools and we place tremendous value on the partnership we have built together over time.  We have worked together to connect tens of thousands of families to the internet, so any issue that could impact internet access is one that we take very seriously.  Comcast became aware of an issue impacting the Miami Dade School District network, causing many families to be unable to access the learning site as the school day began.  Given this took place during the beginning of school, we understand how important connectivity is for virtual learning during this unprecedented time.  We are continuing to monitor the situation and are working with the school district and law enforcement to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We sincerely apologize to the families, teachers, and students who were kept offline.”

The cyberattacks coincided with the “catastrophic failure” of a Cisco software connectivity switch on Monday. Carvalho said, “the root cause was system operating hardware that ran the switch had bad code and required an upgrade.” He said they worked through the night with Cisco and the issue was resolved. Tuesday, the switch was working “fairly well.”

“We still have concerns as thousands upon thousands of parents continue to struggle with the education of our children, nearly 275,000 children depending on us to get this right on the first day. Obviously we still have tremendous challenges,” said Dr. Steve Gallon, Vice-Chair of the Miami-Dade School Board.

Gallon addressed the cyberattacks and other problems plaguing this new school year in a committee meeting on Wednesday.

“We have a number of issues that are outside of the scope of a reported cyberattack. We continue to have issues with the K-12 platform in and of itself. And that’s an issue we have to address,” he said.

For parents and students needing help logging in, the district has set up a help line at (305) 995-HELP (4537) of they can get help online.

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