NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Cyber intruders are now targeting some public school districts in Louisiana and the latest to report a problem is the Tangipahoa Public School District on the Northshore.
Parents showed up to the school district’s headquarters on Monday (July 29) only to learn no registrations would take place.
Mariah Marion had hoped to register her son for high school.
"I came to register him for school, and they told me the systems were down and they didn’t what was going on, or when they were going to be back up,” Marion said.
Crystal Noland came with her stepdaughter and expressed disappointment that they could not take care of her school registration.
“That's horrible. We came all the way out here for nothing pretty much,” Noland said.
A note on the door of the school district headquarters said the registration office would be closed until further notice because the school system was experiencing network problems.
Assistant Superintendent Ron Genco explained the gravity of the problem.
“I think it’s safe to say that we are under a cyberattack,” he said. “There’s something in our system that caused our technology individuals to be concerned enough to turn off all of our systems.”
Genco said they took action right away.
"This weekend our technology team found that our internet systems, our online systems were compromised. They took some proactive steps and disabled everything,” Genco said.
The discovery by the Tangipahoa Parish School District came just days after Governor John Bel Edwards issued an emergency declaration in response to what his office called an “ongoing” cybersecurity incident affecting several local government agencies.
The governor’s office said the cybersecurity incident had also impacted school systems in Sabine, Morehouse and Quachita parishes in northern Louisiana.
To learn there was suspicious activity in the Tangipahoa Parish school system had some parents like Marion worried about their own families’ security.
"I’m kind of upset about that, I mean you know, we’ve got kids and I would sure hate for whoever to get into the system and come out and get our address. You know I got kids who get on the bus and everything,” Marion said.
Genco said they are still working to figure out what type of information may have been compromised.
“We don’t know if any was comprised or which of our individual systems have been compromised and that’s what we’re in the process of trying to figure out,” Genco said.
In Jefferson Parish, which is the state’s largest public-school district, Superintendent Cade Brumley said they are on guard.
"We have not been hacked, we have not been infiltrated and we do not anticipate that happening to us,” Brumley said.
Still, he said they are working with internal and external experts.
"We have some of the best people in the business that work on our team in operations that do this work every single day. And, we’re working in concert with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, as well as the FBI, to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to secure our files and secure the privacy of our kids and our employees each and every day,” Brumley said.
In neighboring New Orleans, Tiffany Delcour, Chief Operations Officer with NOLA public schools, said they too are working to make sure that all systems remain secure.
"There are no indications that we've had any hacking either,” Delcour said.
But she said a number of steps were taken soon after the governor’s emergency declaration on cybersecurity was issued.
“We immediately contacted all of our schools, letting them know this issue was happening in real time. Also, we followed up with all the schools later on Friday afternoon, sending them a survey to better understand what cyber protections all schools had in place so that we can connect schools who need additional protections to experts and other local resources to make sure we’re all using the best practices,” Delcour said.
Brumley hopes parents will also do more monitoring of their kids’ online activity.
"I think it’s important for parents to know beyond this to monitor your child on social media, to watch what they’re posting. So many of the concerns that we deal with at our schools each, and every day are things that filter over from posts on social media between students that educators have to deal with on a daily basis,” Brumley said.