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LIVINGSTON, NJ — In response to members of the public who inquired about the recent cyber security incident and what’s being done to ensure that the systems cannot be attacked again in the future, Livingston Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Block and members of the Livingston Board of Education provided as much information and reassurances as they could without betraying the confidentiality that comes with a criminal investigation such as this one.
Among the parents who attended Monday’s board meeting for this purpose was the father of a Livingston pre-school student who expressed concern that the recent updates have focused on the status of recovery but have provided little-to-no detail about the extent of the breech.
Specifically, he mentioned that many parents have been left wondering about the safety of their children’s medical records, social security numbers and more. He also said that he sympathizes with all of the agencies working to prevent hackers, but asked what the district is doing to prevent it from happening again in Livingston.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, we want to be able to share as much as we can with the public—especially because we know that in the absence of in-depth information and facts, a lot of things become rumor,” said Block. “Right now, we can’t get that deep in our explanation into our recovery efforts and exactly what happened, but we’ve shared out as much as we can.”
Block added that the district is hopeful that its consultants will allow more information to be released in a few weeks and reassured parents that the district is committed to providing as much information as thoroughly and as quickly as possible “to all members of the community.”
“We understand that everybody wants to know more, and we’ll share that when we can,” said Block. “We are also very conscious of the fact that this could happen again and that there have been other entities that have been compromised that have had repeat incidents. Again, we can’t share the specifics of our security decisions going forward, but what I can tell you definitively is that that is very much on our mind and part of our plan.”
He noted that the district’s technology department is working diligently with consultants to not only recover information, but also to take the immediate steps necessary “to protect our system, our information and our digital environment.”
“I can’t make any 100-percent guarantee that it won’t happen again, but we are absolutely aware that there are some additional steps that we could take to protect what we have, and we’re taking those steps,” he said.
Board President Charles “Buddy” August also chimed in to encourage community members to see the district’s information as being “frozen” rather than “hacked”—meaning that the district is confident that its data has been shut down but has not been shared or stolen.
“We have been told over and over again by the consultants we’re working with that it would be a very odd and rare instance for these particular hackers to steal information,” said Block. “I feel confident from what I’ve heard from all the experts that other than the shutting down of our system, our information has not been compromised beyond that. But we are doing a full forensic investigation of our servers, and if we find in a rare instance that our information was brought outside, that would be something we would follow with definitive protocols to let the public know.”
Following the superintendent’s remarks, resident Mike Ramer, who also serves as chair of the education sub-committee for Livingston Vision 20/20, spoke positively about the district’s handling of the recent cyber attack.
“There has been a lot of discussion and talk online about the data systems, and I think the community has really responded positively and understands and has had a lot of patience,” he said. “Thank you so much for the active, open, communication and the transparency. People really appreciate that.”
Fellow resident Sasha Pailet Koff added that another positive outcome from this incident was the discovery of “significant expertise within the community,” as many community members have come forward in response to the cyber attack to offer their unique skill sets to various aspects of the investigation, recovery process and more.
Moving forward, Koff suggested that the board “think about leveraging the immense talent that is here in the community” when either forming or reorganizing district committees in the future.
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