More than 100 kindergartens in the Lower North Island are using pen and paper due to ransomware on the Kaseya software.

Photo: Photo / 123RF

Amanda Coulston, executive director of the Free Kindergarten Association Whānau Manaaki, said her IT provider told her about the Ransomware cyber attack on Saturday.

Kaseya provides IT management software for managed service providers and small to medium-sized businesses.

US authorities suspect that the Russian-based cyber criminal REvil is behind the attack on companies and organizations with the IT management software Kaseya.

Coulston said all member kindergartens – just over 100 – had been warned to leave their laptops and computers turned off while they checked to see if any data had been accessed.

Hundreds of organizations around the world are also affected, including at least 11 schools in New Zealand.

In Porirua, Awatea kindergarten teacher Jo Young said the hack didn’t bother the day much.

She said it prevented her and her colleagues from using their computers for administrative work and it was “really nice”.

“In my non-contact days, I prepared Rongoa Kawakawa Balm for Matariki so that I could actually focus on things that I just enjoyed,” she said.

Young said the hack made it harder for the kindergarten administrator to keep an attendance record.

“The challenge was having our administrator who came in had to work from the iPad,” said Young.

“She was really frustrated that she had to use this.”

Young said teachers could use their iPads for email and other assignments.

“So many strangers in this attack”

IT specialists warned them this morning The full extent of the damage could not yet be foreseen.

Coulston said the IT provider is working with the Department of Education.

“Everyone should leave their laptops and computers turned off and then, when they need to communicate, do so on the iPad. It just gives us time to get the job done and just see if we’ve been compromised or not. “

This is the last week before the semester break.

“The teams were really good,” said Coulston. “They just concentrate on working with the kids and use the good old pen and paper for a few things.”

Coulston said it was hugely disruptive and left the organization on virgin territory.

“Essentially, they search each of our machines and work their way through to see if anything has happened. There are so many unknowns in this attack.

“We wouldn’t want any of us going to a Russian hacking group. We hope that in the next day or two we will have a much better idea.”

The government agency in support of businesses affected by cyberattacks said it encourages businesses never to pay ransom demands.

CERT NZ Incident Response Manager Nadia Yousef said there were examples of companies around the world paying off – only to be hit by more ransomware attacks a few days later.

Yousef said the software is a tool mostly used by larger organizations.

At the post-cabinet media briefing, Education Secretary Hipkins said the Education Department had been working with affected schools and “somehow isolating further risk.”

“Given the variety of different systems used in schools … we work with them to make sure we isolate potential risks there.”

The ministry there has good capacities to provide schools with secure IT systems via the learning network.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said investing in cybersecurity and protocols has been a particular focus for New Zealand, including encouraging the private sector to ensure it is well protected against state and criminal actors.

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