Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday it is time to hit “Control-Alt-Delete” on criminals who launch cyber attacks like the one against the Monroe-Woodbury school district earlier this month.
The district had to delay its first day of school by one day after it was the victim of what administrators called an apparent attempt to break into their computer system and shut it down.
During a telephone conference call with reporters Wednesday, Schumer announced he will co-sponsor a bill authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to help protect school districts and other public and private entities from cyber attacks, and restore their computer systems after an attack.
Schumer noted that the Rhinebeck school district in Dutchess County, and districts in upstate cities including Rochester, Syracuse and Watertown were all subject to attacks by what is known as ransomware — it shuts down computers, and the only way to regain access is to pay a ransom to the attackers.
Schools have not been the only victims. The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department lost access to its 911 system because of a cyber attack. Fortunately, there were no major incidents during the outage, Schumer said.
“The consequences could have been deadly,” Schumer said.
The bill he supports, The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Team Act, was introduced by Democratic Sen. Margaret Hassan of New Hampshire and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
Schumer said a House bill is “extremely similar” to the Senate bill, so it should be easy to agree on wording and approve a final bill to send to the president. He’ll use his influence as Senate minority leader to move the process along.
Elsie Rodriguez, superintendent of Monroe-Woodbury, supports the idea of the federal government assisting school districts and other local victims of such attacks.
While they had funding to deal with the problem, not every district is as fortunate, she said.
Monroe-Woodbury is still recovering from the attempt.
“We know it could be a lengthy process, weeks or even months” before it’s complete, Rodriguez said.
Schumer said the FBI’s field offices must take the lead in investigating these attacks, finding the people responsible and arresting them.