Two schools have been forced to close after hackers breached their servers and took hold of vital information about pupils and staff.
The cyber attack on Skinners’ Kent Academy and Skinners’ Kent Primary School in Tunbridge Wells has led bosses at the academy trust to urge parents to tell their bank that personal details may have been compromised.
In a statement on the school website details of the incident have been revealed.
The hackers have encrypted key data relating to pupils and staff, meaning the school itself no longer has access to it.
Because this information includes vital details relating to safety of pupils, which the school must legally hold, it meant there was no choice but to close. The primary school was shut on Monday for a planned INSET day, while the academy is due to reopen on Thursday.
The statement reads: “Please be assured we would not have taken this decision if there had been any other alternative.
“There are certain safeguarding documents that any school is required to have in order to be allowed to open. Unfortunately, these files we no longer have access to.
“In addition to this we need to make sure that we have access to all medical information, emergency contact details of all students and staff, which we also currently do not have access to.
“This is on top of having to rebuild all computers so that we can access resources required to teach. All of which will take a couple of days in order to be able to open safely.”
Although at this stage there does not appear to be specific evidence that financial details have been obtained by the criminals, the academy trust tells parents “it would be very wise” to contact banks as a precaution.
The trust statement adds: “We cannot be sure exactly what the hackers have access to and what they don’t as everything has been encrypted, therefore we are changing all of the trust’s passwords and would recommend that students and parents do the same.”
To allow the schools to reopen, a process is under way to gather contact and medical details from parents.
A spokesman for the trust said: “On Wednesday, we learnt that The Skinners’ Kent Academy and Skinners’ Kent Primary School servers had been attacked by hackers who have stolen and encrypted trust data.
“We are currently working with our data protection company, the police, Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre to investigate this attack and restore all affected systems.
“Since late February 2021, there has been an increased number of ransomware attacks which have affected education establishments in the UK, including schools, colleges and universities.
“Whilst the trust had a number of systems in place to prevent such an attack happening on our network, the sophisticated nature of the organisation behind this meant that we could not access essential data and information.”
A Kent Police spokesman said: “Specialist detectives from Kent Police’s cybercrime unit are carrying out enquiries after a school in Tunbridge Wells reported that its computer systems had been illegally accessed.”
Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells