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Hackers Bring Fairfield School District Website to a Halt

Hackers Bring Fairfield School District Website to a Halt

The internet is a hacker’s playground and no one seems to be off limits these days. On Tuesday October 20, 2009, the Fairfield K-6 district was forced to shut down due to an attack by hackers. Parents received a big surprise on that day, thinking they would find the normal content on the school district website. Instead, all they got were links to numerous schools and locksmiths located in Connecticut. Turns out this security breach falls heavily on the shoulders of IT experts who should have been more prepared for such an attack.

Too Little Too Late

Based in Austin Texas, web hosting firm Apollo Hosting has been providing service to the Fairfield School District for several years now. Unfortunately for both parties, Apollo was still working on a way to seal the security hole and amend the damage four days after the exploit was detected. Needless to say, this particular customer is not a happy camper.

Pat Freda, President of the Board of Education and also the board’s liaison on technology, remarked three days later that the site would remain shut down and unavailable until the school found another more reliable and secure web hosting provider. According to Freda, the cyber hackers took advantage of vulnerabilities in Apollo’s software, a tactic that was executed to infect any computer accessing the school district’s website with a malicious program. He noted that any user visiting the site would have had their computer infected with a virus if the machine was not adequately protected. From the looks of it, this single security blunder could have cost Apollo hosting one of its most loyal customers.

Freda was sure to report that the school’s internal computer network servicing grades K-3 at Stevenson School and grades 4-6 at Church Hill School were secure and unaffected by the breach. Fortunately, the hacker attack didn’t halt all activities as both teachers and students were able to still logon and use their systems.

We Are All Susceptible to Compromised Security

The breach of the Fairfield School District website is just one of many high profile examples that remind us again that any website can be compromised. Universities, medical facilities and corporations have all been victimized, many of them suffering far more damaging fate than what was discussed here. Ironically, this particular event also proves why security should not be overlooked in the web hosting business. You can take all the preventative measures you want, but if your host cannot provide a secure environment, your website will be left vulnerable and become fair game to the ambitious community of hackers. Your web host can never slack off on security. Something as simple as an outdated application can provide a cyber criminal with the entrance they need to sneak in and stir up all sorts of trouble.

Weeks later, the Fairfield School District is networking without disruption and things appear to be back to normal. What isn’t clear is whether or not the school forgave its long-time service provider, or moved on to a more responsible host.

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