Riverhead Schools ‘Cyber Incident,’ Spoofed Police Robocall Probed

Taylor K. Vecsey
The Riverhead School District office on Osborne Avenue.

A “cyber incident” has Riverhead School District officials reeling from a staff data breach, and Riverhead Town Police warn that a related robocall purporting to come from the department is an imposter.

School officials said on Friday that it was experiencing an internet and email outage that the district later attributed to a cyber incident. Then on Monday, Riverhead police said it received reports of a robocall about the incident falsely claiming to have come from the department.

“Our technology department, with assistance from technology consultants, worked diligently over the weekend to restore as much of our technology as possible in light of the recent cyber incident,” Augustine Tornatore, superintendent of the district, said in a letter to the community. “We are not aware of any compromise of student data at this time. We are grateful to our technology department and consultants that have been doing everything possible so that we can utilize technology with as much normalcy during this challenging situation.”

The breach comes as school districts increasingly fall victim to hackers using ransomware — a malicious computer virus that holds files hostage unless the district pays the hackers —  as vulnerable school systems were used for widespread remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Riverhead officials have not indicated receiving a request for ransom, and not all of its systems are down.

“Currently, Outlook email is not accessible,” Tornatore said. “If you need to contact a staff member, please call the appropriate school or office. Google applications including student Gmail accounts and extensions including Clever, SeeSaw, and Google Classroom are safe and available. District-issued ChromeBooks and iPads can access the District WiFi and will have full function and access to the internet.”

The robocalls pretending to come from the police department — a practice known as spoofing, or making a call look like it’s coming from a phone number other than the true dialer’s — deepened the mystery. The robocalls came from phone number 631-902-5121 with the caller ID of Melissa Frost, police said. 

“When answered, a recorded message stated the caller was Sgt. Frost of the Riverhead Police Department, calling in reference [to] a data breach at the Riverhead High School,” police said in a news release urging recipients to disregard the calls. “This call was not from the Riverhead Police Department or any other affiliated agencies.”

Anyone with additional information is urged to call the Riverhead Police Department at 631-727-4500 x 312. All calls will be kept confidential.

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