AOS 77 Experiences Cyber Attack, Employee Data at Risk

By Lura Jackson

The threat of losing personal data to cyber attacks is continuing to grow as our information economy expands – a reality that has come to roost in Washington County with an attack on AOS 77’s central office last week. The successful hacking attempt enabled the user(s) to gain access to secure system files, including the personal information of up to 2,000 past and present employees. No student data was compromised in the attack as it is not stored in the central office.

In confirming the data breach, Superintendent Ken Johnson explained that “it is hard to verify what information was compromised.” The lost data could include name, date of birth, physical mailing address, Social Security number, and direct deposit information.

AOS 77 currently includes Alexander, Baring Plt, Charlotte, Crawford, Dennysville, Eastport, Lubec, Pembroke, and Perry. Calais and Robbinston were formerly part of the AOS and, as such, past employees from that window of time may be affected.

Johnson emphasized that the central office has taken immediate and decisive action to address the situation. “Whatever can be done, is being done,” he summarized.

All potentially affected employees were notified with a written letter, Johnson said. The letter alerted the recipients to the attack and recommended that they contact their financial institutions. The central office itself has notified the banks and credit unions involved so that the affected accounts can be monitored for suspicious behavior.

The central office has suspended its own direct deposit operations while they are conducting a security check through their software provider’s security team. “As we plan for the future, there may be changes to our system,” Johnson anticipated.

The central office has also contacted its insurance company. Last year, when the time came to renew the insurance policy, Johnson selected the option of adding data protection to their plan for the first time. “If there’s one silver lining to all this, that’s it,” Johnson said. “It was just something I thought we should do at the time.”

 

Last but not least, the central office is working with a branch of federal law enforcement as it investigates the attack. Johnson could not share details of the investigation but shared that “the nature of the attack makes it very difficult to trace the origin. It could have come from anywhere in the world.”