WESTFIELD, NJ — Hackers forced the Livingston School District into a delayed opening in November when ransomware shut down school computers.

A school district in Long Island paid out $88,000 in crypto currency last summer to resolve a similar ransomware incident.

The Westfield Public School District, however, has its guard up in efforts to prevent cyber attacks, officials said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

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“There is always somebody out there still trying to get in, but I do think there are quite of few things in our district that we have, and other districts don’t have,” said Board of Education President Peggy Oster.

While noting that some measures could not be made public due to security concerns, school board member Michael Bielen said the district does not allow members of the public to access its wireless internet and limits what information it puts into the cloud in efforts to prevent cyber-security breaches.

Bielen, who was reporting on a recent technology committee meeting, said district staff have become more aware of phishing scams, those types of spam where a hacker attempts to gain personal information or access to a system by soliciting information via email.

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However, he warned of a similar and increasingly more frequent danger: SMiShing. It is a version of phishing named for the platform on which it happens: text messages, which are also known as SMS messages. SMS is an abbreviation for short message service.

“You get SMiShing when they’re trying to go to do that through your cell phone,” Bielen said.

“Don’t fall for it,” he added.

Bielen advised the public to mark spam messages as spam so that systems can identify them as such.

The Westfield School District, he said, receives about 71,000 emails daily; however, just 31% of those are useful messages. The rest, Bielen said, are spam and other types of junk mail.

Bielen, who works in information technology, said quickly updating technology is important when working to prevent breaches in a large system, such as a school district.

“When you’re dealing with large environments you have to act quickly because some hacker or wrongdoer will jump on it,” he said.

Click here to view the full school board meeting.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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