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UPDATED: Cloquet schools back in session, still recovering from computer attack

Cloquet schools are back in session today, after having Wednesday off for snow and Thursday because of a malware attack on the district's computer system.

The extra day off of school Thursday gave school district technology staff much needed time to respond to the particularly virulent virus -- a variant of the CryptoLocker ransomware -- which infected some of the district's servers and many of its 600-plus computers, but it also meant more delayed activities and loss of classroom time.

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said Thursday afternoon that the school district is making progress on restoring the computers and affected network servers. Having that extra day off -- and more importantly, not having students and staff trying to use computers and iPads and district bandwidth -- was invaluable to the technicians who are working to restore the school district's computer system, he said.

Yvette Maijala, technology coordinator for the school district, said outside systems including gmail, Schoology and PayPams (the online school lunch payment system) were not affected by the hack. All sensitive student information was also safely stored off the local network and was not affected. However, the system that all the schools use on site for lunchroom payments was compromised, as was the program that monitors the district's HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems. The schools still have heat, Scarbrough noted, but have lost that monitoring ability until the program is restored.

"It wasn't that information was taken, or used for financial reasons," Maijala said. "Rather the malware corrupted files so they aren't usable."

On Thursday afternoon, district staff were working to collect every computer in all of the schools so they could be "reimaged." In layman's terms, it's like taking a computer back to factory settings but also includes the school district software that the district uses. It also means that any information teachers or other staff only had stored on their desktop will likely be lost to the virus.

While the schools were back in session Friday, it was "old-school" teaching style for most teachers, many of whom received boxes of chalk earlier in the week when the attack began.