MUSD staff unpaid after ransomware attack | #ransomware | #cybercrime

Maricopa Unified School District employees were told their regular Friday paychecks would be delayed after a ransomware attack rattled 21 Pinal County school districts.

“On Tuesday, MUSD was informed of a cybersecurity breach impacting the Pinal County Schools Office and disrupting the systems used for payroll processing,” Superintendent Tracy Lopeman said in an email to InMaricopa.

District staff set up systems Wednesday to re-enter lost payroll data from Pinal County, she said. They also prepared paper paychecks in case the systems couldn’t be restored in time for direct deposit.

Pinal County Schools told MUSD yesterday it couldn’t use direct deposit to deliver paychecks to employees. MUSD told staff to report to the district office to pick up paper paychecks instead.

But that evening, Pinal County said it couldn’t process payroll in any form.

Around 8 p.m. last night, MUSD told employees payroll systems were not restored and payroll would be delayed.

The attack during fall break is brutal timing for many affected.

“Some people are on vacations already counting on this money and others live paycheck to paycheck,” Maricopa Wells Middle School teacher and coach Nicole Blackwell said in an email to InMaricopa. “Employees were first told they had to pick up a paper check, that the paper checks would not include any extra pay like coaching or subbing for other classes, and that there is a good chance our checks would be incorrect.”

Last Wednesday, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a nationwide warning they anticipate ransomware attacks, usually linked to bad actors abroad, would increase this school year.

Pinal County Superintendent Jill Broussard had this to say in a statement shared with InMaricopa:

“It has come to our attention that the Pinal County School Office Data Processing Consortium was the victim of a ransomware attack this weekend.

We are working diligently to resolve this matter.

At this point, it does not appear that sensitive data has been compromised and most of the system has been restored. However, in an abundance of caution, we will be issuing live payroll checks for distribution for this pay period, which means that no electronic fund transfers or direct deposits will be made at this time.

Paychecks will be distributed from your school district office as soon as they have been processed. We anticipate that to be on Friday, Sept. 29 if the system has been restored and paychecks can be printed.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

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