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Police: Hacker alerted Union Schools to potential breach

The Union County Public School System received an unwanted message from an anonymous source Thursday: You’ve been hacked, a move potentially putting the personal information of more than 5000 employees at risk.

Union County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Ben Bailey said the alleged hacker, whose identity is unknown, reached out to the school system Thursday but didn’t disclose how that person made contact with school officials.

The school system responded by sending an email to employees to advise them of the attack and shutting down outside access to the system website, spokesman Rob Jackson said. Students and teachers Friday still had access to online instructional materials through the school intranet, Jackson said.

In the email, Superintendent Mary Ellis said, “It is possible confidential employee information, including Social Security numbers, has been compromised.”

So far there is no evidence of personal identification having been stolen, officials said. And the sheriff’s office, Monroe Police and FBI are investigating whether a breach actually occurred.

“We spent a lot of time yesterday and all day today to assess the degree and extent of any possible compromise into the system,” Bailey said.

Hacking is on the mind of many in the Carolinas as a number of high-profile cases have made the news. The biggest incident to hit close to home happened when hackers last year managed to gain access to the S.C. Department of Revenue computers and steal state tax data belonging to 6.4 million consumers and businesses.

And last week, The New York Times and Federal Reserve each disclosed network intrusions.

In Union County, police are trying to determine the identity of the person who claims to have hacked into the system – and whether that person works for Union County Public Schools.

Jackson said that the school system will be working with police to determine what security changes it can make to prevent future intrusions.

“We want to identify any weakness in our information security protocols,” Jackson said.

Steele: 704-358-5067 on Twitter: @steelecs
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