Malware, IT Issues Disrupt Distance Learning For Some IE Schools

PALM DESERT, CA — As distance learning continues across the Inland Empire amid school closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic, some campuses are dealing with malware attacks and IT issues that have temporarily disrupted operations.

College of the Desert in Palm Desert was the victim of an attack Sunday that brought down email and web services. A COD IT team and third-party cybersecurity experts have been working around the clock to bring all systems back online as quickly and securely as possible, and investigate the cause and scope of the incident, the college said Tuesday.

“The restoration process requires extensive system and data testing. We will not risk resuming operations before testing the stability and reliability of the system,” said Dr. Joel Kinnamon, COD superintendent/president. “While we cannot provide an exact timeframe for the complete remediation of college systems, we are working diligently to ensure systems and operations are restored as soon as possible.”

Fortunately for COD students, the fall semester doesn't begin until next week. The college said Tuesday that students will not be dropped from classes due to nonpayment of fees and staff is continuing to serve students. The campus is using the college’s emergency text alert system to provide updates and information to all faculty, staff and students as it becomes available, officials said.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to restore the system and I am thankful for the round the clock efforts of our IT and cybersecurity team,” Kinnamon said.

There was no evidence that any personally identifiable information has been compromised, the college said.

A report has been filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to COD.

The Rialto Unified School District in San Bernardino County had to suspend online learning Monday following a malware attack there. The district said all staff and students in grades 9 through 12 are discontinuing use of district-issued Windows-based devices. Several applications, such as Outlook, Remind App and Parent Portal were unavailable.

Chromebooks and iPads issued to K-8 students were not impacted by the malware, the district said.

“Rialto Unified School District has been affected by malware, which is software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorized access to the computer system,” the district said in a statement. “RUSD instruction will be suspended until further notice, while we investigate the nature and scope of the malware."

Last week, the Murrieta Valley Unified School District reported issues with the Canvas online learning management system. The system was reportedly slow and timing out on students who were attempting to log-in for class.

The issues were resolved by Canvas, but there was no word on what caused the slowdown.

"[Canvas] is used by several K-12 districts in California and throughout the University/College system," the MVUSD said. "This issue is not just in Murrieta, it is everywhere."

The Lake Elsinore Unified School District had disruptions on Monday after some teachers and students were locked out of Zoom. A district spokesperson told CBS that classes were able to resume with a back-up video conferencing app.

Related: Riverside County Elementary Schools Can Now Seek Reopening

This article originally appeared on the Palm Desert Patch