On Wednesday, The Miami-Dade County Public School system went through their third day of cyberattacks.
During a Miami-Dade School Board meeting, School Board Vice-Chair Steve Gallon emphasized that “[his] number one question will not simply be about the attack, but about what provisions and policies and practices [they] have in place to mitigate and abate those particular attacks.”
Given that MDCPS has a $5.5 billion budget, such disruptions were bound to happen. However, the issue that needs to be addressed is not the origins and reasons behind the attacks but the district officials’ incompetence.
According to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, “these types of attacks are not common on our school system.” He assured board members that the system had been tested in previous days and defended MDCPS’s preparation for the school year, later adding that “you can’t anticipate the unknown.
Regardless of Carvalho’s statements, it is clear that the district’s security and safeguard measures were not successful. Tens of thousands of families, students, and teachers were kept from logging in to the system, virtual classrooms were empty, and the learning process was interrupted for days.
As if this wasn’t already a challenging school year for kids, who have to attend classes remotely in the middle of a pandemic, now they also have to deal with technical difficulties that could have easily been avoided.
In response, a broader investigation is being conducted. Miami-Dade Schools Police, the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are working together to find the people behind the attacks.
On Thursday morning, an IP address led authorities to their first arrest: David Oliveros, a 16-year-old South Miami Senior High student.
“We have a 16-year-old operating a complex system with the capability to dismantle the learning process for hundreds of thousands of students,” M-DSPD Chief Edwin Lopez said in a statement.
However, web expert Craig Agranoff told WPLG that this type of attack is not as complicated as some may want to suggest.
“It doesn’t even have to be an orchestrated setup. It’s some simple software you can use, and it just basically goes and almost grabs other people’s computers that they don’t even know and starts sending traffic to these websites that they want to take down,” Agranoff explained.
While the investigation is far from over and there seems to have been both national and foreign cyberattacks, it is indeed worrisome to hear claims of the fourth largest school district in the nation’s online system being such a vulnerable one.