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Union Grove High learns lessons from ransomware scare

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UNION GROVE — After a cyberattack similar to the one the City of Racine is dealing with now, Union Grove High School has increased cybersecurity and taught staff members to be more discerning with their clicking.

UGHS was hit by ransomware in October, according to District Administrator Al Mollerskov, but Director of Technology Meko Stanosevic caught the infection and shut everything down before any of the district’s data was encrypted.

Ransomware is typically spread through links or attachments sent via email. The virus then encrypts all of the business or government’s files so they can’t be used. A ransom is then usually demanded in exchange for a de-encryption key.

Even though UGHS caught the attack before its data was encrypted, Stanosevic had a rough week manually cleaning out files from the infected server and wiping and reinstalling software on district computers. It took Stanosevic and a team of four others about a week to get everything back in order.

After the attack, the district upped its antivirus protection and is educating staff about phishing emails.

Now the district uses the company KnowBe4 to send fake phishing emails to staff, unbeknownst to most of them, to teach them to be more discriminating about what they open. The first time the district sent such an email, 23 staffers clicked in the first hour, until the assistant principal noticed that the email seemed suspect and advised others not to click.

After that, the school had a staff meeting where employees were advised “don’t just click on links to things,” according to Mollerskov.

The second time the district conducted a phishing test, only four people clicked.


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Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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