Broward County Public Schools experiences cyber attack, and a wifi outage at MSD

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Computers at MSD all had the same message pop up on March 8, as the WiFi went out at school. Photo by Mariajose Vera.

Kate Becker

On Monday, March 8, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced a WiFi outage for the entirety of the first period of the school day. Additionally, all Broward County Public Schools had a system malfunction affecting multiple programs used by schools, and it continues to affect programs at the moment.

The system malfunctions were a result of a cyber attack the night of March 7, with a BCPS Alert informing schools that some programs would be down until further notice. All of these events have caused a big struggle for teachers and staff, on top of already dealing with online learning at the center of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Broward County schools have been using multiple different online programs throughout the years to educate students, provide information and resources and track student records. Now more than ever, schools are highly reliant on these programs to teach and inform their students due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many schools to learn online. 

On Monday morning, MSD had a major WiFi outage leaving teachers, students and staff on campus unable to log onto their computers. The WiFi was restored by second period, around 9:00 a.m. This still caused teachers and students to miss their whole first period classes.

WiFi outages have been a recurring issue at MSD and other district schools considering the fact that all of Broward County is now reliant on learning online. This means previous WiFi outages and malfunctions have already affected the amount of time teachers have with their students, so the WiFi outage on Monday wasn’t a new situation and only added their lack of instruction time. 

“[On Monday,] administration came on the loudspeaker to announce that internet access was down and [that it] would be for a while. I sent a Remind message out to all my students that [the] internet was down at school,” math teacher Donna Numeroff said. “I told my [first period] students [that] they should work on the review for the quiz and [that] I was pushing the quiz to Friday [when it was originally scheduled to be on Wednesday].”

Additionally, BCPS had to deal with program malfunctions from the March 7 cyber attack. It is still unknown who is responsible; however, it is considered a serious attack. This occurrence caused the BCPS school board to shut down the websites for maintenance to make them more reliable and safer for the future. The programs Canvas, Pinnacle, Virtual Counselor and BASIS, which provides private student data, were all affected by the attack. 

“It has been a real challenge to not have Pinnacle or most of the district’s applications,” social studies teacher Devin Schaller said. “Not only can I not update grades, but I also can’t inform students or their parents that they might be in danger of failing.”

Canvas was fixed on Sunday, but the other systems were not. Pinnacle was fixed on March 10 by 12:00 p.m.; however, many grades in Pinnacle have been messed with, leaving it up to teachers to fix and catch up on missing grades they were unable to insert before. Furthermore, Virtual Counselor is expected to be back up and running by Saturday, March 13 at 12:00 p.m., and BASIS is expected to be fixed by Monday, March 15 at 10:00 a.m. 

“It is frustrating to navigate these issues when we as teachers are already dealing with the normal difficulties of online learning,” Schaller said. “The lack of reliable connectivity makes an already difficult task nearly impossible. I am hoping the district can rectify these issues so we are not dealing with them during [the] 4th quarter.” 


Other information about the issue is currently unknown. For more information on the attack, read this article published by Sun Sentinel. Updates about the status of online programs can be found on MSD’s website.