School Ransomware Attack Leads to Newfound Hobbies


What activities throughout our daily lives aren’t made possible by technology? From waking up to alarms on our cell phones, ordering food to our doorstep, communicating with our friends via messaging apps, and even binge-watching our favorite shows on streaming services, technology plays a vital role in all of our lives. This control goes even further into the lives of students as modern education has centralized around technology, especially following a year of primarily virtual learning. As of last week, the Tenafly School District devolved into a world before the Internet after its servers were hacked. Learning in school has changed from lessons revolving around the use of technology back to the obsolete methods of blackboards and chalk. 

On the morning of June 2, students woke up to the surprise of not being able to access any of their school-related digital accounts including Google platforms, Genesis grade portal, and WebOutlook email inbox. After arriving at school, students were notified about the district-wide hacking by a ransomware group known as Vice Society. With their data compromised, students and teachers alike were left helpless with a ransom price over the administration’s heads. Teachers have had no other choice but to revert to teaching from chalkboards and with loose leaf paper, but even then, many teachers’ lesson plans were entirely thwarted, leaving many classes with little to nothing to do.

In light of the fact that there was no longer an option to teach students using electronic tools, teachers had to get creative with class activities during the downtime. One THS Language Arts teacher, Mr. Whitehead, led his class through competitive games of hacky sack, with players being ranked as a Varsity or JV player based on their abilities. “I think that instead of just sitting in class like we do in a lot of our classes and not learning, going outside and actually hanging out with teachers and friends is a lot of fun, especially at the end of the year,” Aiden Krumerman (’23) , who was a player on the varsity team, said. “[It was] just a relaxing way to finish off the class in a fun way.” Mr. Whitehead has since taken another class outside to partake in games of hacky sack.

In addition to adaptations made in the classroom, in the wake of this newly opened free time, many students have also found themselves in search of hobbies. As much of this school year’s curriculum across all subjects/courses was dependent on digital services such as Google Classroom, the sudden loss of access to these networks not only left many students with little to do in classes, but little to do at home as well. Students have since picked up many new creative hobbies to fill up their time.“[On top of everything else,] I would say that after AP life, you have a lot of free time,” Daria Levy (’23) said. “I just figured, why not, buy a couple of markers and start drawing. And it made me very happy. I really like it.”Levy has taken it upon herself to embark on a series of creative projects recorded on her Instagram. And the lack of after-school assignments has further opened her time to personal leisure. “I’ve just been going on walks, I’ve been traveling a lot to different parks in the area, drawing, trying different coffee places, hobbies, basically.”

Other students have also been engaged in their newfound hobbies during school hours as well. Students such as juniors Rowan Copes and Liad Gross have been seen with colorful balls of yarn on their desks as they’ve embarked on a project of their own. “One of my teachers allowed us to choose our own projects to complete for the end of the year, so Liad and I decided that we were going to try to crochet a bag for our end of the year project,” Copes said. Many others have since taken it upon themselves to follow suit and start up mini projects of their own. “[Crocheting] was definitely something that I could do to pass time and still be somewhat focused in classes where we were playing games and stuff, so I could do two things at once,” Copes added.

Despite the frustrations surrounding this sudden loss of access to technology, many have also appreciated this time apart from the computer screen as a much-needed break. “It’s nice not being consistently concerned with Google Classroom and being away from it for a good week and a half,” Krumerman said. And after a particularly difficult school year, transitioning from a year of virtual learning, many students became increasingly fixated on grades. The hacking not only resulted in a break from technology and school work but a separation from grades in general. “I think it’s amazing. I also think that it’s really refreshing to not have access to gradebook, which I think is something that Tenafly kids are very unregulated to,” Levy said. “So it’s almost relieving in the sense that we can’t do anything and we are forced to do stuff for ourselves.”

Something that every member of the THS community has been able to take away is the advantages of a technology-free world, as it allows us to untether from our devices and find passion in new things. While the situation created by the ransomware attack created chaos amongst the district, it also created opportunities to bond more with the people and world around us. It’s often that when we are disconnected, we end up making the most meaningful connections.