School Network Temporarily Suspended while Security Upgrades Put in Place

Experts from the City of Newport’s IT Department are assisting their counterparts at the Newport Public Schools after being alerted to a potential security issue affecting a portion of the School Department’s internal network.

On Monday, network connectivity at Thompson Middle School and the Rogers High School campus were both suspended in order to allow City staff and its outside technical consultants to analyze and update pertinent hardware following the discovery of suspected malware on a School Department computer last week. 

School Department personnel first identified the suspected malware on its network on Monday, July 29, 2019 and reached out to the City’s Information Technology Department for help to ensure that the network is secure before classes resume in September.

On Monday, teachers and administrators busy preparing for the start of the new school year were relocated to Pell Elementary School while necessary security upgrades were put in place.

“At this point, the issue appears to be isolated to the Newport Public Schools network, and has not affected the City’s operations in any way,” said City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson. “We also do not believe that any sensitive student or financial information has been compromised.”

Malware such as the one found on the School Department’s network have become commonplace in recent months as communities from across the country have been forced to contend with an increasing number of malware attacks targeting local school districts, emergency response agencies, and general municipal operations. These so-called Ransomware attacks are typically carried out through e-mail phishing operations and can have significant impacts on governmental operations.

Through its IT department, the City of Newport has been actively monitoring these incidents and has put in place a number of additional security controls in recent weeks aimed at protecting critical infrastructure and data.

As a precaution, the Rhode Island State Police have been notified and additional information is expected to be made available as soon as a complete system analysis is complete.

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