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Ministry beefing up security after school board 'cyber incident'

Stolen data goes as far back as 1970

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce weighed in Tuesday about a cyber incident that impacted hundreds of local public school board employees and some students in July by sharing a message of reassurance that work is being done to prevent further attacks.

"We've increased funding and are working with school boards, the OPP, local law enforcement, and the privacy commissioner among others to ensure the integrity of our virtual learning systems and student information is maintained," Lecce said. 

The minister also noted that the provincial government is partnering with multiple school boards to make sure their online systems are strong and never compromised. 

Back in July the Waterloo Region District School Board was hacked with attackers accessing restricted and sensitive data. 

That stolen data included both past and present student and employee information some of which dated as far back as 1970. 

In mid August the board reported they had recovered the stolen data and any compromised data had been deleted.

As students returned to school on Tuesday, questions were raised with one of those retired educators about the current state of the hack.

Richard Clausi a retired math teacher and president of the Active Retired Members local chapter of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation says at least 50 members have reached out with concerns. 

"They're first of all outraged that that data is still with the board. They retired, they handed in their key, their security card, their email account. They assumed the board would sever the relationship at their end," he said. 

Hackers were able to access social insurance numbers and other sensitive data of retired employees, however, Clausi said the biggest concern is that he and other retired members were never notified of the breach. 

"They found out, well, through us. I found out through a discussion with a colleague over breakfast." 

Clausi said, a particular frustration being faced by retirees is the lack of communication from the school board on exactly what happened during the hack and in the recovery of the data. 

"If there is a defined cause for this problem it would not hurt to say it. [If they] paid a ransom, [if they] had a rogue employee do this or that, if we knew [it would help]." 

The school board hasn't said if money was paid to hackers to recover the stolen data and are withholding saying more as the investigation remains ongoing.