TECHAGEDDON! GHS Responds To RPS 205 Ransomware Hack

Magnus Swanson, Opinion Editor

   On September 6th, a Ransomware attack led to the Rockford Public School District’s deactivation and outage of nearly all digital and electronic systems. This affected every school’s internet access, storage drives, and general availability of technology. Now well into its second month, Guilford’s lack of technology has caused major changes within the learning/teaching sphere. Without access to lessons, smartboards, computers, or emails, teachers have had to work in new ways that resembled older methods. Students were left with little work to do, stalling their first quarter progress. Many teachers are still waiting for issues to be resolved. However, students, teachers, and the administration are taking steps to deal with the lack of technology. 

   “A lot of classes rely on computers, and especially the internet to get work done,” said Trey Rotert, senior. “The worst thing about this hack is that we can’t even check on our grades, and as a senior, we can’t even send GPA transcripts to colleges we’re applying for. Some students don’t have internet access at home, and school is usually where they can get most of their work done, but they obviously are now at a greater disadvantage.” 

   Student response has been minimal, simply because they are unable to do much of anything about the situation. Students have to wait the hack out, continue with class, and see what the administration can do. 

   “The biggest inconvenience to students is that they can’t access Google classroom, and without it, I don’t have any way to give out materials,” said Ms. Jennifer Chycota. “We’ve gone back to the classic classroom we have been indifferent towards for the past decade. However, despite the lack of technology, the academic progress in my classes has been fine, and I’ve even taken measures to deal with the problem. For example, I’ve set up a personal hotspot in my room, and hooked up my personal laptop to the Smartboard. Along with those, I got my old gradebook back out, and have been keeping track of grades since the hack took place. As a teacher, I’ve handled the hack fairly easily, and now I have more time to plan and grade, without tech issues or emails getting in the way. ” 

   More experienced teachers like Ms. Chycota were relatively prepared for this, due to their exposure to lack of technology in the past. However, newer teachers in the building have struggled, as the majority of their lesson plans were saved on computers or storage drives. Many of these teachers created paper copies of lesson plans at home to hand out to classes, and  relied more heavily on subject books for lessons.

   “The morning of the hack, the office was faced with shock and awe, and kind of had a doubt in what happened,” said Mrs. Anja Knuth, Office Professional. “Our main priority was to shift all of our focus to maintain the school’s progress without electronics. We lost most of what we use on a regular basis: the phones, emails, transcripts, faxes, etc. To deal with this in the future, we’re working on creating hard, up to date, paper copies of everything we would need.”

   The main office has faced the brunt of the lack in technology; without phones, they could not contact parents or teachers, making their strained work even harder. Thankfully the office handled this well, and now that phones are back, along with emails, things are getting back to normal at Guilford.

   “This year, RPS has a new director of technology, and he caught the hack and shut down the system immediately in order to prevent the hacker from gaining anything more,” said Mr. Gus Carter, Principal. “One of our first actions was to set up a Remind (group chat) for the administration, due to both the phones and emails not working. With Remind, we updated the admin every morning and throughout the day with news and details on what was going on in the building. We then had students write out their schedules in case admin or parents had to pull them out of class. Paper documents were also created for referrals and attendance. 

   Despite the catastrophe of “Techageddon,” GHS is in the process of recovering from this hack and has handled the challenge as well as possible, all the while continuing with day-to-day activities. The school has hosted countless sporting events, homecoming, and more, all without technology. What could have been a complete disaster was relatively diverted thanks to everyone’s support.

   “As the principal I had to get more involved within the school,” said Mr. Carter. “Instead of sending out emails, I had to arrange meetings and make sure everything was prepared to keep the building running. The next step began with the replacement of the hard drives in all of the computers around the district. Computers are back, but some features may not work just yet. Thankfully Google drive and the Cloud saved the majority of what we have.”