Tenafly District under Ransomware Attack


During the most crucial time of the school year—finals season, college recommendations, and finalizing transcripts—Tenafly High School fell under a ransomware attack on Thursday, June 2. All Tenafly-related sites shut down, including the Genesis portal, WebOutlook, and Google Drive, barring students from accessing study materials and teachers from updating grades. Though there is much speculation on who the attackers are and how much they demand for ransom, one thing is for certain: this is a sticky situation that has never been seen in the Tenafly district.

Once the district administration first identified signs of a ransomware attack, they contacted authorities, the FBI included, launching an immediate investigation that remains in place. Additionally, “students, and families began to receive regular information and updates about the situation, its status, and access to systems as it became available via email, text, and the TPS App,” Ms. Christine Corliss, District Webmaster and Communications Manager, said. “Between June 2 and June 13, one to two messages per day were sent by the district administration.”

Though the attack shocked the district, ransomware attacks have become increasingly commonplace in recent years. These cybersecurity breaches encrypt data, holding files hostage until a requested amount of money is paid. In this case, the amount of money requested has remained confidential, though rumors have circulated among panicked students. “At this time, we believe that we are only responsible for paying our $25,000 deductible,” Corliss said. 

The administration is yet to reveal the identity of the hackers, and with much uncertainty, concerned Tenafly residents have turned to rumors that the culprit was Vice Society, a ransomware group. According to PCrisk, the group prevents files from being accessed and demands a ransom to recover them. “Our immediate priority was to restore network connectivity and access to email as quickly as possible,” Corliss said. “Upon the recommendation of our expert response team, we purchased a decryptor from the criminals responsible for this incident. Although it was not an easy decision, the district does have a cyber liability policy for circumstances like this and this was the quickest path to restoration.”

About a week later, students were able to recover their Google accounts with temporary passwords. “Servers and systems are restored although access and data reviews continue,” Corliss said. As of June 15, all systems are accessible, including Google Workspace, email, and Genesis.