A Miami high school junior, 16, has been arrested following a wave of cyber attacks on the county’s public schools computer network, which left students and teachers unable to access virtual learning set up for the start of the school year.
David Oliveros, a student at South Miami Senior High, confessed to using an online application to carry out an attack on the Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS) computer network, according to authorities.
Oliveros also admitted to being behind eight different attacks that overwhelmed the district’s computer networks, the police report said.
Police believe other attackers are still at large after MDCPS, the largest school district in Florida and fourth-largest in the country, was hit by at least 14 attacks following its virtual start to the semester Monday.
The district superintendent said he is now considering axing the new online learning system altogether and Republican Senator Marco Rubio has asked the Department of Homeland Security for an intelligence briefing over the incident.
Carvalho watches a teacher conduct a class online. A Miami high school junior, 16, has been arrested following a wave of cyber attacks on the county’s public schools computer network, which left students and teachers unable to access virtual learning set up for the start of the school year
MDCPS, which serves 275,000 students and is using virtual learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, suffered two distributed denial of service attacks on Monday and Tuesday in which a software glitch blocked access to the district’s servers.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho then announced the district had been hit by another 12 separate cyber attacks on Wednesday morning, some local and some from outside of the US.
The attacks completely overwhelmed the systems, including virtual learning system My School Online.
The fifth attack alone prevented more than 170,000 students and teachers from logging into the system.
No personal data was stolen in any of the attacks.
District officials scrambled to minimize disruption to students’ learning as much as possible and students in grades 6-12 were moved to different systems Thursday.
An investigation was launched involving Miami Dade Schools Police Department, the FBI, the Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said it was ‘disheartening’ to learn a student was behind the attacks
Police said Thursday detectives tracked down one of the culprits – Oliveros – by tracing an IP address responsible for the attacks back to the 16-year-old.
He has been charged with the third-degree felony of computer use in an attempt to defraud and the second-degree misdemeanor of interference with an educational institution.
Oliveros is being held in the Juvenile Assessment Center.
MDSPD Chief Edwin Lopez said he believes other perpetrators are still out there and warned them ‘we will find you’
MDSPD Chief Edwin Lopez said he believes other perpetrators are still out there and issued a warning to them that ‘we will find you’.
‘We believe, based upon our investigation, that other attackers are out there,’ said Lopez.
‘We will not rest until every one of them is caught and brought to justice. Cyberattacks are serious crimes, which have far-reaching negative impacts.
‘Our message to anyone thinking of attempting a criminal act like this is to think twice. We will find you.’
District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said it was ‘disheartening’ to learn a student was behind the attacks.
‘It is disheartening that one of our own students has admitted to intentionally causing this kind of disruption, however, I am confident that the M-DCPS family will continue to show its resilience and commitment to education, in the face of adversity,’ he said.
He said he is now considering scrapping the online learning system following the attacks.
The district was conducting classes virtually through MSO, a virtual learning platform run by education tech giant K12.
Pictured: An error screen indicates that the district’s virtual learning platform isn’t functioning correctly
The platform went down nationally on Wednesday and many teachers and students complained about not being able to see their classes.
The Florida Education Association said it had warned the district not to use the system prior to its rollout, reported Miami CBS Local.
‘All of the signatures on this side are there with the exception of my personal and final original signature,’ Carvalho said of the $15 million contract on Wednesday.
The district has until September 11 to decide whether students in grades 6-12 will return to using and whether grades Pre-K-5 will continue using the K12 platform.
Dr. Steve Gallon, Vice Chair of the school board, described the attacks as ‘an utter fail’.
‘We’ve had these cyber attacks previously but they’ve never come to point out shutter an entire school system,’ he said.
‘There’s no question that the K-12 from training through implementation, thought course uploads, and most importantly allowing access to parents has been an utter fail. It’s been an utter fail. It’s been an utter fail.’
Republican Sen. Rubio requested a briefing with the Department of Homeland Security on cybersecurity following the attacks because it relates to school districts.