Investigation underway after Tyngsboro schools hit by cyberattack

TYNGSBORO, MASS. (WHDH) - Officials in Tyngsboro have launched an investigation after the town’s high school and middle school were hit by a cyberattack that caused internet outages this week.

The school district’s IT professionals and cybersecurity provider 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 Distributed Denial of Services attack, according to Superintendent Dr. Michael Flanagan.

“An internet DDOS attack is as if you hired a fleet of drivers and said, at precisely at 5 o’clock I want everyone to jump onto 128 and 95, you artificially induce a lot of traffic and thus the legitimate traffic comes to a stop, it can’t reach its destination,” cybersecurity expert Kevin Epstein said.

Flanagan added that the source of the attack was apparently a device that was being brought into a building at 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. 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.”

The town is now working with state education officials, a Danvers-based IT solutions company, and local police to identify and remediate the source of the outage, and to determine whether the interruption was intentional or caused by a compromised device without the knowledge of its owner.

High school and middle school students took part in remote learning on Friday. In-person learning is slated to resume on Tuesday.

Tyngsboro Elementary School was not affected by the attack.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)