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No sensitive data taken during District 518 cybersecurity breach

The attack originally came from Nicaragua.

Worthington District 518 administrative building, April 2022.
Worthington District 518 administrative building, April 2022.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — No personal information or data was taken or utilized during a cybersecurity breach that hit District 518 in February, the Operations Committee of the District 518 Board of Education learned Tuesday.

“It was mitigated and I think we have it under control,” said Amy Ernst, district technology director, noting that the attack was shut down within 30 minutes of its beginning.

An investigation performed by the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative showed that the email accounts breached were used to push out more spam and that the attack originally came out of Nicaragua, said District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.

The SWWC Service Co-op’s cybersecurity team is new this year, Ernst said, and having to hire a company to perform the investigation may have cost more than $10,000, and a more complex investigation may have resulted in a $70,000 bill.

Steve Schnieder, school board member, asked where the attack originated, and Ernst answered that it was hard to pinpoint it, but that social engineering seemed likely.

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Social engineering involves manipulating people into voluntarily giving up confidential information, and can include anything from sending sophisticated phishing emails to simply walking into a secured building behind a real employee with a key.

Ernst said the district had increased its password strength requirement for all staff, and that she hopes to do more staff training in the future.

“I think that’s really key to a lot of it,” she added.

In other news Tuesday, the committee:

  • Learned that District 518 must replace its phone system, which, due to a company buyout will no longer be supported as of June 2023. The company had originally given an end-of-life date of June 2022. A new system will cost approximately $140,000.
  • Heard that the district is short on vehicles, particularly for extracurricular activities with smaller groups, and as there is a shortage of vans, SUVs will likely be purchased instead.
  • Received an update on district building projects from Dave Skog, the district’s director of business management. Contractors are working on the finishes for the Intermediate School, and bricklaying began Monday at the Community Education building. Other upcoming projects include a remodel of the special education spaces at Worthington High School and a roof replacement.
READ MORE FROM KARI LUCIN

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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