Hacker demands money from Taranaki high school prompting police probe and warnings from tech experts

The principal of Taranaki's Hawera High School was forced to check her emails today with her own personal hotspot, with the entire school network still down after a hacker demanded money for access to course work.

Experts are working to foil the cyber-security breach. Source: 1 NEWS

"We're not aware of how they got into our system," Principal Rachel Williams told 1 NEWS. 

The issue is now with the police, who have identified that a 'known variety' of ransomware caused the issue.

"In short they’ve had malware that has infected their server and their network, it’s encrypted all their files," said Detective Sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies of the Police Cybercrime Unit.

Tech expert Paul Spain said it’s more common than people realise. 

"We see ransomware attacks happening continuously. It's happening all the time. There's people basically getting hit every single day," he said.

"I think we have this sort of feeling in New Zealand. You know the term 'she'll be right mate', we're pretty relaxed and we think it will be somebody else, it won't be us. 

"Then once an organisation's hit sometimes even in those cases they will pay the money and then not make too many changes to improve their current situation," Mr Spain said. 

CERT, the Government’s Cyber Security Agency, said on its website that Ransomware can get on your computer the same way as a virus, which can be from visiting unsafe or suspicious websites, opening emails or files from someone you don't know and clicking on malicious links on social media.

It also recommends not paying the ransom, as do police. 

Police told 1 NEWS investigations are on-going into the issues with Hawera High School’s system. 

The school hopes to be back online by the end of the week, but it’s still uncertain if they will get some of their lost information back.