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Helena school officials discuss online threats in Flathead Count - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Helena school officials discuss online threats in Flathead County

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Following online threats against Columbia Falls schools caused school districts around the Flathead Valley to cancel classes for several days, school officials in the Helena Valley said they’re taking the possibility of a similar threat seriously.

Flathead County authorities say the cyber-attack against Columbia Falls was an attempt by hackers outside the U.S. to extort money from the district.

Superintendent Jack Copps says the Helena School District has “cyber insurance,” which would cover some of the costs of a similar extortion attack and of recovering any data that was lost.

Copps said the district also consistently updates its technology and trains its employees in how to protect important information online.

“We have the right kind of people in place to make sure that we are as secure as we believe that we possibly can be, and of course it is important to provide training as well,” he said.

East Helena Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said his district would react to an online threat in the same way they would to any other type of threat.

“Whether it be a note on a door, a note in a room, a letter mailed to the district, or an email or a text message or any of those things, all of those are just conveyances,” he said. “It’s just a different way of approaching the same problem we’ve dealt with for a long time.”

Whitmoyer said school leaders will take a closer look at the Flathead incident in the coming months, and discuss how they might react to a similar situation. But he said they will not give out specific information about their procedures, so no one is able to design a threat to get around them.

Both superintendents agreed the safety of their students will always be the first consideration in how they respond to this type of threat.

“We shut down the school, we don’t have school, we don’t start school back up unless we are absolutely sure that students are safe,” Copps said.

RELATED: Flathead Co. Sheriff: Threat suspects located outside of US, ransom note release

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