East Texas schools working to keep their networks secure in wake of Whitehouse ISD cyberattack

Local News

HENDERSON, Texas (KETK) – Cyberattacks are a growing problem, and Whitehouse ISD was the latest target. In the wake of that incident, East Texas schools are working to keep their information as secure as possible.

On Thursday morning, Whitehouse ISD announced a cyberattack of its system. Some of the information hackers might have gotten access to includes home addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers of students and staff.

Henderson ISD, which had more than $600,000 taken in an online scheme in 2018, is doing what they can to ensure they aren’t next.

“Most of us use the same kind of systems or similar systems, and so we know that if there’s a breach in one place it’s a vulnerability that might exist in other places so we like to make sure that we are on top of things,” Henderson ISD Director of Communications David Chenault said.

Whitehouse ISD said they were on top of the situation and have been working with third-party forensic specialists to investigate further.

After the incident, other East Texas schools now have hackers on their mind and have been preparing their own systems.

Chenault said that the district does multiple backups everyday to maintain the equipment and data to try and secure it.

While scammers did not take the student information from Henderson ISD, staff have gone through cyber security courses in hopes an incident like this won’t happen to them.

“It’s always a balance between cost and ease of access and security,” Chenault said. “Those three things kind of go hand in hand in trying to be as secure as possible but still allow people to get the data that they need in a timely fashion.”

Cyber security experts have said the best thing parents can do is monitor their child’s credit report.

When someone steals your personal information, they can use it to:

  • Use your info to obtain loans and and credit cards,
  • Make withdrawals from your bank accounts,
  • Access your online accounts
  • Buy things online using your online funds

The U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General of Texas recommend those who fear that hackers have stolen their identities to take the following actions.

  • Call the fraud department of your credit cards and other online services. Explain that someone stole your identity. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts.
  • Immediately change logins, passwords, and PINs for your accounts. 

One East Texas expert said that schools can be a hacking hotspot for criminals.

“They can use that information for all kinds of things, and so they’re going to do everything that they can to get access to that. They’re very sneaky at how they go about it,” President and CEO of East Texas Better Business Bureau Mechele Mills said.

Whitehouse ISD said they hope to restore full and secure functionality as soon as possible.

On the school’s Facebook page, the district wrote to a parent that they would be following the lead of the forensic specialists on how to notify families if their information was compromised.

Below is a copy of the full statement released by the district:

Whitehouse ISD recently experienced a disruption to certain computer systems due to a cybersecurity incident. We responded immediately to contain this incident. We are working diligently with third-party forensic specialists to investigate this matter, confirm its impact on our systems, and restore full and secure functionality to our systems as soon as possible. 

Whitehouse ISD’s primary concern remains its students and community. Although our investigation is ongoing, unfortunately it appears that limited information relating to certain student and employee records was compromised. To the district’s knowledge, this information might include, but may not be limited to, personally identifiable information such as home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers. Because of this, in addition to the technical experts we have partnered with to ensure our system is secure, we are also working with law enforcement and legal counsel to ensure all appropriate parties are notified and appropriate steps are taken to investigate this matter. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding and apologize for any inconvenience. As the investigation continues, we ask that you direct all questions to WISD Communications Specialist Nikki Simmons at (903)839-5500 or by email at simmonsn@whitehouseisd.org

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