What is ‘ransomware’? Rockford Public School computers still down after hacker attack

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Public School District says it has made progress recovering data after a hacker shut down the entire computer system Friday.

In a message to parents and staff on Tuesday, administrators say RPS 205’s IT team and outside experts are still exploring what systems and servers have been affected and are working around the clock to restore them.

There has not yet been any word if staff and student data has been compromised by the virus.

The District says protecting that information is a top priority. All schools and offices will remain open during the outage, which locked up computer hard drives, and crippled the Internet and phone system.

Hackers used a type of computer virus, called ransomware, to take over the school district’s systems, so named because it allows hackers to remotely demand the victim pay for an encryption key to regain access to their data.

So, how do you avoid becoming a victim of ransomware?

Jim Wilkinson, Executive Director of Information Technology at Rock Valley College, says, “If you’re not expecting a file from somebody, if you know that person, contact them, see if they sent it to you. If not, simply delete it. Don’t go to strange websites and make sure you have anti-virus, anti-malware [software] on your home computer.”

According to Wilkinson, the sites which carry the most malicious viruses are adult entertainment sites.

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