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Cyberattack Partially Blamed For Miami-Dade County Public Schools Virtual Tech Issues

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was a cyberattack. That is what caused problems for Miami-Dade County Public School students and teachers to get access to virtual platforms on Tuesday, for the second day in a row.

In a late afternoon news conference, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho explained Monday's issue stemmed from the "catastrophic failure" of a Cisco software connectivity switch. He said "the root cause was system operating hardware that ran the switch had bad code and required an upgrade." He said they worked through the night with Cisco and the issue was resolved. Tuesday, the switch was working "fairly well."

However, Tuesday morning when students and teachers tried to get access to their virtual platforms for the second day of school, many could not.

Carvalho said there was an intermittent cyberattack that actually started around 8:00 a.m. Monday and continued through some of the day Tuesday.

It's called a DDOS attack or a Distributed Denial of Service Attack, stated the Superintendent.

Comcast, which first claimed "there were no anomalies" later released a statement to apologize for the issues.

"Comcast has a longstanding relationship with the Miami Dade County Public Schools and we place tremendous value on the partnership we have built together over time.  We have worked together to connect tens of thousands of families to the internet, so any issue that could impact internet access is one that we take very seriously.  Comcast became aware of an issue impacting the Miami Dade School District network, causing many families to be unable to access the learning site as the school day began.  Given this took place during the beginning of school, we understand how important connectivity is for virtual learning during this unprecedented time.  We are continuing to monitor the situation and are working with the school district and law enforcement to ensure this doesn't happen again. We sincerely apologize to the families, teachers and students who were kept offline."

Comcast is now working to mitigate the cyberattack, which is a felony.

Carvalho said the FBI, FDLE and Secret Service have all be notified. A subpoena has been issued to Comcast for all records needed to determine the origin of the cyberattack.

He explained the DDOS caused a critical bottleneck where no one was able to get in but added despite the attack, the school district's cyber wall held.

"There was a malicious attempt, malicious well-orchestrated complex attempt at derailing the connection which is essential for our students and teachers," said Carvalho.



Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez said they are working to identify the culprits who contributed to this "mess". He added they have an electronic road map to identify the source of the attack and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Carvahlo said it's not the first time the district has been targeted in a cyberattack.

Meanwhile, teachers are finding workarounds to get lessons across.

Elementary school Teacher Jodi Allen used Zoom to conduct her classes Tuesday after the district's platform and backup system both failed.

"This was bigger than anyone imagined. It's been a test week. Hopefully, everything will be resolved by next Tuesday, the day after the Labor Day Holiday," she said

School board member Steve Gallon said he has asked to look at the contract for the K12 program the district purchased for distance learning after reports surfaced that the company was once sued in California.

"The board didn't vote on it," he said

The superintendent said he plans to hold the vendor accountable for the problems, including a software failure Monday and the cyberattack.

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