Public school teachers and principals could be without access to their online learning materials and email accounts until next week, after a cyber attack hit the NSW Education Department just hours after the state government directed schools to return to remote learning.
Educators have been locked out of the department’s online portal and unable to access their calendars, remote learning resources and communications since Wednesday evening, when the department deactivated its systems as a precaution while investigating the attack.
On Thursday, department secretary Georgina Harrisson said she was confident online access would be restored by the start of term three, which begins on Tuesday, and assured families home learning would not be impacted.
Teachers have warned of rising stress levels and say they cannot prepare for the first day back until their systems and online materials are accessible. Year 12s studying for their HSC trials and distance education students have also been unable to log in to their accounts, where some store their study notes.
Sydney schools were on Wednesday told they would be teaching remotely for the first four days of term three as the state government extended the city’s lockdown until Friday, July 16.
Cyber security expert Troy Hunt said organisations usually took their services offline when they were worried third parties had breached security controls and accessed confidential data.
‘This is not a case of simply turning a tap on and off; pivoting to online remote learning requires significant preparation.’
Angelo Gavrielatos, NSW Teachers Federation president
“You take the system offline to prevent the attacker accessing any more. You want to be confident there’s no-one in your network, and whatever vulnerability they exploited is now patched, before you go back online,” he said. “[How long that takes] will really depend on the nature of the breach.”
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said there would be a “state of paralysis” among the workforce until their online access was restored because they were effectively shut off from digital resources they needed to prepare for next term.
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