MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) cyberattack is what allegedly took down online learning for Miami-Dade Public Schools early this week.
The major looming question — why wasn’t the fourth-largest school district in the country ready for this sort of attack they say a 16-year-old pulled off?
Web expert Craig Agranoff says executing that type of attack is not as complicated as you’d imagine.
“A simple Google search of how to do one of these will reveal how to do them,” said Agranoff, founder of the GRIPD.com interactive agency and a professor of political marketing at Florida Atlantic University.
“It doesn’t even have to be an orchestrated setup. It’s some simple software you can use and it just basically goes and almost grabs other people’s computers that they don’t even know and starts sending traffic to these websites that they want to take down.”
The easiest way to think about it: Imagine thousands of people showing up to a coffee shop that has a capacity of a hundred.
On Thursday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho defended the system, saying it had been tested in previous days and that the cyberattacks did not penetrate their firewall.
“You can’t anticipate the unknown,” he said.
Experts say this is probably a good time for Miami-Dade Public Schools to go over their cybersecurity policy.
“Obviously something failed along the way,” Agranoff said.
It was an IP address that led police to South Miami High School junior David Oliveros, who was arrested Thursday.
Investigators say the teen admitted to conducting DDOS cyberattacks that overwhelmed the school system, though it is believed that he was far from alone and foreign actors were also involved.
“It takes no joy because he is one of us,” Carvalho said Thursday of Oliveros. “The glory is not worth it. This fleeting moment of fame will quickly vanish.”
At least two school board members say the focus should go back to education — and solving the current problem.
“We can not have this,” Marta Perez said.
Fellow school board member Martin Karp said: “The real story here is the education platforms.”
On Wednesday, teachers in grades 6-12 were told to ditch the K12 platform they had been using and to use Microsoft Teams to connect with their students.
“For me, we’re still left with what we started,” Karp said. “Is K12 the best platform?”
Broward urges new passwords
Noting the cyberattacks in Miami-Dade, Broward County Public Schools on Friday urged their students to change their passwords from the defaults if they have not done so already.
The district says it is making that request “in an abundance of caution.” For instructions how to change that password, click here.