London School Forced to Shut Down Amid “Devastating” Cyber Attack

Cyber Security, Newsletter

Leytonstone School, situated in Waltham Forest, London, has forced to shut its doors due to a severe cyber attack on the school. The assault on the school’s IT infrastructure has been described as “devastating”, resulting in a significant quantity of private data being accessed. The Cyber Attack has left the school closed since the half term, with only GCSE students currently able to attend in-person classes.

The more than 800 pupil secondary school has bee forced to shift all other year groups to remote learning, as the school’s network infrastructure (including Wi Fi Access Points) and Phone System remain inoperative. Headteacher Jessica McQuaid has attributed the prolonged closure to the inaccessibility of a crucial document known as a single central record, which contains vital staff information and vetting checks. “It is illegal for the school to be open without this document in place,” she stated in a letter addressed to parents. It is yet unknown if the school has a backup of all of their critical data that can be accessed or restored.

Currently, the staff is labouring to recreate a new single central record, but it is not anticipated that the school will be able to fully resume operations this week. Expressing her deep regret, Ms McQuaid told parents, “I am incredibly sorry for the short notice…but it is illegal for the school to be open without this document in place.” She added, “I am devastated that this IT incident has taken place and impacted the start of the half term for pupils.”

In response to this critical IT incident, Leytonstone School has brought in a third party to assist and address the cyber attack. The school has also reported the matter to the police, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the National Cyber Security Centre, due to the “significant amount of personal information data held by the school” being accessed. Parents have been advised to alter the passwords they use for all school-related platforms, such as ParentPay and Google Classroom.

A parent of a student attending Leytonstone School told the Evening Standard, “It’s hugely unfortunate for the children after so much learning has been disrupted already, first by Covid and then by strike action. But the staff are obviously doing all they can to get the children back in as soon as possible.”

Alistair Strathern, Waltham Forest councillor and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, expressed his concerns, saying, “We are working with Leytonstone School to understand the full impact of the incident. The school has been in regular contact with parents and will continue to share information with them as soon as possible. The safety and wellbeing of students, their families, and staff is our top concern, and we are working to support school leaders to be able to re-open to pupils safely as soon as possible.” The Information Commissioner’s Office, in the meantime, has reported that they are making enquiries into the incident.

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