Teen arrested for alleged cyberattacks on Miami-Dade schools

Teen arrested for alleged cyberattacks on Miami-Dade schools
© Getty Images

A 16-year-old high school student was arrested Thursday for allegedly orchestrating multiple cyberattacks that disrupted virtual classes for the Miami-Dade County school district this week.

Law enforcement for the school district, which is the nation's fourth largest, made the arrest after tracing an IP address involved in the cyberattacks to the suspect, identified as a junior at South Miami Senior High School.

Authorities said the student admitted to orchestrating eight distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks aimed at the school system's online distance learning platform and other systems. The student was charged with computer use in an attempt to defraud and with interference with an educational institution.

ADVERTISEMENT

DDoS attacks involve an attacker attempting to take down a server by overwhelming it with traffic.

The district has been targeted by more than a dozen cyberattacks since the school year began Monday, which combined with a software malfunction to severely inhibit the ability of more than 200,000 students in the district to attend virtual classes.

Miami-Dade Schools Police Department Chief Edwin Lopez said in a statement Thursday that his department had worked with the FBI, the Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in investigating the attacks, noting that based on the investigation he believes “other attackers are out there.”

“We will not rest until every one of them is caught and brought to justice,” Lopez said. “Cyber attacks are serious crimes, which have far-reaching negative impacts. Our message to anyone thinking of attempting a criminal act like this is to think twice. We will find you.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (M-DCPS) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on Thursday thanked the federal and state authorities for their assistance in the investigation.

“It is disheartening that one of our own students has admitted to intentionally causing this kind of disruption, however, I am confident that the M-DCPS family will continue to show its resilience and commitment to education, in the face of adversity,” Carvalho said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Miami-Dade is not the first school district to be the victim of a debilitating cyberattack, particularly as experts have warned that with more students online than ever before, educational institutions present a tempting target for attackers.

Louisiana declared a state emergency last year after a coordinated ransomware attack hit multiple school districts, while the district in Flagstaff, Ariz., was forced to delay classes for several days last year after being targeted by a similar attack.

More recently, the school district in Rialto, Calif., canceled online classes last week after being hit by a malware attack.