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Cyberattack Costs District, Prompts Extra Protection

The district battled a continuous malicious cyberattack beginning in September that sometimes left staff members with no access to student emergency and medical information.

The Wyoming Police Department and Michigan State Police are investigating the cyber attack. The district is offering a $1,000 reward forinformation leading to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the criminal activity.

The entire district internet system was shut down nearly every school day. Attackers did this by jamming the AT&T router with traffic to the point it would shut down.

“It all seemed to be tied to school hours, not always starting the same time of day, but it always would end just as kids were getting out of school,” Superintendent David Britten said. “(AT&T) wouldn’t give us any information at all on where (the traffic) was coming from.”

To fix the problem, AT&T required Godfrey-Lee purchase the protection service.

Teresa Mask, senior public relations manager for AT&T Michigan, declined comment.

While the attacks had stopped as of early December, the district has locked into a three-year contract for a protection service with AT&T, costing $87,000 over three years.

Daniel Townsend, district director of technology and media services, said the cost for AT&T’s protection service is approximately $49,000 for 12 months. That includes a one-time $30,000 fee for an emergency setup. The cost for the remaining two years in the three-year contract is $19,000 a year. The Board of Education approved a $60,000 budget addition for this fiscal year to cover the cost — about the cost of a teacher, Britten said.

The district’s technology team first tried to use an out-of-state company to fix the problem, but that didn’t work because AT&T has control of the infrastructure. The out-of-state company did have another solution, but “it would have been a very complex process involving a lot of man-hours, so we chose to use AT&T since they own the infrastructure and could expedite the process,” Townsend said.

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is the poorest district in Kent County. Ninety-five percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunch.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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