A BRIDPORT school has fallen victim to a ransomware attack which is being investigated by Dorset Police’s Cyber Crime Unit.

The ransomware attack, also known as a cyber attack, came through an email to the Sir John Colfox Academy and has resulted in a number of GCSE coursework being lost.

Investigations are still ongoing and there have been reports that the school is being asked for money in return for the information.

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said: “We received a report on February 28 of a ransomware attack at the Sir John Colfox Academy in Bridport.

“No money has been exchanged.

“A full investigation is underway into the circumstances and Dorset Police’s Cyber Crime Unit is supporting and providing advice to the school.”

The source of the virus came from an email sent to a member of teaching staff and appeared to be from a normal email account of a colleague at another Dorset school, but when an attachment was opened, this was not the case.

In a letter sent out to parents, headteacher David Herbert said: “It has caused significant issues to our school network and our ICT team have been working with external advisors – including a specialist police unit – to try and rectify the problems.

“The email originated in China and was then forwarded from a server in Germany. The police technical expert was very familiar with the particular server that it came from and it is part of a significant international operation.

“The police expert has advised us that it is unlikely that any school information has left the building and we are not compromised in that way.

“Personal data relating to staff, students and parents is not held on this system and is secure. However, the work and information that was held on our network is currently encrypted and we are unable to access it at this stage.

“This is clearly problematic for staff and students in many ways. Year nine and 10 reports will be at least a week delayed in the first instance.

“The most significant issue is that Year 11 student’s GCSE coursework in product design and food preparation and nutrition that is saved on the school network – where it has to be saved – is currently lost. We are liaising with the relevant exam boards about this specific issue.

“Any work that has been saved in students’ Microsoft One Drive or SharePoint areas is not affected. These are the areas that people sometimes refer to as being ‘in the cloud’ – they are not saved on a local network.

“I would like to thank our ICT team for the significant extra time and work they have put in helping these issues. It has been very difficult for them.

“In order to avoid unfortunate incidents like this, one piece of advice to share with everyone is that you should never disclose your username and password if you are asked for it to open an attachment that comes with an email. This should never be requested, not even by a bank. Disclosing this information can leave your account vulnerable.”