BY: KARMA ALLEN, ABC News
(MIAMI) — Police arrested a Miami high school student on Thursday for allegedly carrying out a string of crippling cyberattacks targeting Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ online learning system as students headed back to school.
The 16-year-old has not been identified by name, but the student is a junior at South Miami Senior High School in Miami-Dade County, Florida, school officials said Thursday.
Officials with Miami-Dade County Public Schools said the teen carried out several Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, which are designed to disrupt a network’s server by overwhelming it’s system with a flood of internet traffic.
The suspect was charged with Computer Use in an Attempt to Defraud — a third-degree felony, and Interference with an Educational Institution — a second-degree misdemeanor, according to the district, which serves some 275,000 students.
School district officials said the cyberattacks had “maliciously disrupted teaching and learning” across the district, which is the country’s fourth-largest school district.
Investigators were able to locate the student by tracing an IP address associated with the attacks.
The suspect allegedly told authorities that they had orchestrated eight malicious attacks since Monday when Miami public schools began its fall online learning program amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The student admitted to orchestrating eight Distributed Denial-of-Service cyber attacks, designed to overwhelm District networks, including web-based systems needed for My School Online,” the district said in a statement. “The student used an online application to carry out these attack.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools said it has been the target of more than a dozen of these types of attacks since the 2020-2021 school year began.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools chief Edwin Lopez said he believes there are additional suspects involved, but investigators are working to determine if that’s the case.
“We believe, based upon our investigation, that other attackers are out there. We will not rest until every one of them is caught and brought to justice,” Lopez said in a statement. “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 superintendent of schools Alberto Carvalho thanked investigators for their “tireless efforts” this week and vowed to move beyond the disruption.
“I commend our detectives, the FBI, Secret Service, and FDLE for their tireless efforts to pursue those responsible for these attacks,” Carvalho said. “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.”
The district said it was working with the FBI, the Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ensure a “thorough investigation” is conducted.
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