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Cyber attack interrupts online learning at Greece Central School District



GREECE, N.Y. — The Greece Central School district Tuesday was hit with a ‘denial of service’ cyber attack, which shut down online learning. Cyber security expert Paul Robinson says DoS has been happening since the Internet came about.

“What it does is it floods a network with so much traffic, that it’s unbearable for the network to be able to handle it,” says Robinson adding, “A tsunami is a better way of explaining it because it’s just an ongoing, relentless ongoing flood of traffic.”

Robinson says this attack is fairly easy to learn and could be a tech-savvy kid looking to get out of school for the day, or someone high-level looking to cripple a system.

“I’ve seen these last half a day, I’ve seen these last a couple of weeks,” he says.

A statement from Greece Schools Tuesday said:

“Greece experienced a denial of service (DoS) attack today that caused periodic technology outages. Such an attack floods a network with traffic until it cannot respond and crashes, preventing legitimate users from accessing the network. These types of attacks are common and will likely happen in districts all over the region this school year. We notified families of the situation and suggested that if students learning from home today were inadvertently disconnected, they should continue the learning outlined for them by their teacher in either Google Classroom or Seesaw app. While these nuisance attacks are frustrating and cost everyone valuable time and energy, the perpetrators are not seeking access to personal information. The goal is to create a temporary disruption in service.”

— Laurel Heiden
Community Relations Manager, Greece Central School District

Jonathan Weissman with RIT’s Department of Computing Security says ‘denial of service’, is highly illegal. “The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prevents somebody from accessing a system without authorization,” says Weismann.

He adds it’s not just unauthorized access that pertains to the DoS attack, but more so the damage done to a computer. Bringing it down causes damage in terms of time, money, and reputation (More information can be found here: 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5) 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(7)).

When it comes to preventative steps, Weissman says there is one thing out there. “There are D-DOS protection services that will detect abnormal traffic flows, and re-direct such traffic away from your network.”

Robinson says with the pandemic, we’re living in a time with big upticks in cyber attacks. But he says we will overcome this, and says there is so much going right with online learning and back to school, that needs to be highlighted as well.

“(Schools are) doing the best they can, this is not an ideal situation. There’s no one whether it’s on the teacher’s side or the parents or the kids side who says ‘hey this is what I want,’” says Robinson.