Albuquerque School Database System Suffers Cyber Attack

Cyber attack on the Albuquerque Public Schools District leads to a near shut-down of classes on Thursday, January 13. The Albuquerque Public Schools district’s technology department had been fighting off cyber attacks “for the last few weeks,” notes the superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools.

Five other school districts within the state of New Mexico have suffered major cyber attacks in the past two years. However, Albuquerque is the first to report the attacks.

The closures, on Thursday and Friday, affect approximately one in five New Mexico schoolchildren, in what is the country’s 35th largest school district by enrollment, according to 2019 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The district was one of the last in the state to reopen last year as vaccines became available.

The small town of Truth or Consequences discovered a cyber attack on Dec. 28, and still hasn’t gained control of its computer systems. The attack has not been previously reported. It came when students were on vacation, allowing time to make contingency plans before students returned. Mike Torres, the information technology director of the school system in Truth or Consequences, a small town in central New Mexico says that while the attack “made computer systems unavailable,” disruption has been minimal.

That wasn’t the case in Albuquerque, where teachers discovered Wednesday morning that they were locked out of the student information database that tracks attendance, records emergency contacts for students, and tracks which adults are allowed to pick up which students at the end of the school day.

Albuquerque Public Schools hasn’t said if the cyber attack they face is a ransomware attack, only that their student information database was “compromised,” and that it’s working with law enforcement and contractors to limit the damage.