DDoS Attacks Disrupt Massachusetts Schools

Students learning remotely in Massachusetts have had their lessons disrupted by distributed-denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks.

Sandwich Public Schools suffered a week of connection issues after what was first identified as a firewall failure occurred on October 8. A new firewall put in place to resolve the issue subsequently crashed, prompting the technology department to source a firewall from a different vendor. 

After further connectivity issues were experienced with the schools’ OpenCape Network despite the new firewall, the source of the problem was determined to be a DDoS attack. 

Superintendent Pamela Gould said the district has reported the attack to Sandwich police as well as to the FBI’s Cyber Crime Unit.

“This is not a capacity issue for the district,” wrote Gould in an email to parents. “This is something that is happening to us.”

Repeated internet outages have also been occurring this month at Tyngsboro’s high school and middle school, interrupting the district’s best efforts to deliver education remotely to their students.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Flanagan said the Tyngsboro district’s IT professionals and cybersecurity provider have determined that the outages were not caused by an internal hardware issue or an issue with the district’s internet provider, but instead were the result of a DDoS cyberattack, apparently from a device being brought into the Norris Road campus each morning,

“We are frustrated and disappointed that this outage has disrupted what has been a very successful and positive start to our school year here in Tyngsboro,” Flanagan said in a news release. 

“We have all pulled together and worked so hard to create a positive learning environment in spite of the challenges and disruptions of the COVID pandemic.”

Tyngsboro’s outage is currently under investigation by state education officials, an IT solutions company, and local police. It is not yet clear whether lessons were sabotaged deliberately or via a device that had been compromised unbeknownst to its owner.

“While we are confident that we will soon rectify this situation, I am upset for the difficulty and disruption this has caused our students, families, and staff,” said Flanagan.

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