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Sen. Schumer Pushing Bipartisan Bill That Would Help Protect School Districts From Cyber Attacks

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- After a number of Long Island school districts fell victim to cyber attacks, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is introducing legislation to protect them all.

The Rockville Centre School District paid almost $100,000 to restore its data after being hacked with a ransomware virus. The malware encrypted files on the system's server until payment was made to unlock the information.

"When it first happened our security tech director literally ran across the street, pulling out wires and plugs because he saw it happening at that moment. We had to work with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI ... We had to work with insurance companies. Yes, a lot of this was done in this dark net," Rockville Centre Assistant Superintendent Christopher Pellettieri told CBSN New York's Jennifer McLogan on Monday.

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The district said the payment using bitcoin, covered by the school's insurance, was necessary to restore the district's communications systems needed to run day-to-day operations after the cyber attack.

"Many school districts would simply not have $100,000 and would be in an absolute catastrophe if this were to happen to them," state Sen. Todd Kaminsky said.

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Ransomware is a malware that targets data and systems for extortion and is delivered through targeted phishing emails, according to the FBI. Mineola and Lynbrook school districts were also targeted.

"This is about protecting our communities, our children and our taxpayers. Nothing is more important," Rep. Kathleen Rice said.

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U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is now pushing a bipartisan effort to fight back against cyber crooks.

"These hackers are sophisticated, but the Department of Homeland Security knows how to do this. And today we are pushing a new plan that demands that the federal government take a mega-bite out of these ransom-hacking crimes to stop the culprits from getting bolder and bolder," Schumer said.

Schumer is urging Congress to quickly pass legislation, known as the "Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Team Act," and is calling on the FBI to immediately and thoroughly investigate these incidents.

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