JOHNSTON, Iowa — It’s been a week of worry for many as a cyber crime struck the Johnston Community School District publicly releasing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of students and sending them threatening messages. “Unfortunately in today’s society you don’t know what to expect. Was it just a prank or something serious and if the children are at risk? It was very scary,” said Tracy Page, a concerned Johnston parent.
Classes and activities were cancelled Tuesday but as week wore on, Johnston Police deemed the threats lacked credibility. “You feel much better. There`s always still that eeriness about it, but you feel better,” Page said.
Thursday the school district uncovered the culprits behind the hack and revealed the information in a letter to parents. “The Dark Overlord is a hacking group that extorts victims for ransom payments in bitcoin. They have targeted many different businesses and organizations in multiple states over the last year or so. the list of those impacted include: netflix; numerous health care providers; movie and television studios; private manufacturers; and, most recently, several school districts.” Another concerned parent said, “More cause for the parents to stay involved and the school system to stay on top of it.”
The district also said, “As parents, it is clear we are living in changing times, one that poses many challenges given the prominent role technology plays in all of our lives. however, I want to reassure you we are taking this cyber-breach very seriously.” A new age parents are well aware, is far different than the one they grew up in. “We never had to deal with this kind of thing and I think social media plays a big part of it. I think it’s too bad kids and parents have to deal with these things these days and it`s sad,” Page said.
While the district also encouraged parents to monitor their personal information, through it all many believe communication from the district has helped put them at ease. Belle Chase said, “I think it’s vital to the parents and students to make sure everybody is notified and everybody can take the proper action needed.”
The cyber attack remains under investigation. The Johnston CSD is taking additional precautions to safeguard information through a variety of methods but could not release any specifics.