Atlanta schools says confidential data for all employees ‘potentially exposed’

Atlanta Public Schools is warning that an online data breach may be a bigger problem that previously known.

Atlanta Public Schools is warning that an online data breach may be a bigger problem that previously known.

An Internet scam that swiped paychecks from a couple dozen Atlanta Public Schools employees may be a lot bigger than district officials initially knew.

APS announced late Tuesday that federal investigators warned the problem extends beyond the initial reports of 27 employees whose paychecks were stolen and seven additional staffers whose direct deposit information was changed.

Confidential data for all of the district’s roughly 6,000 employees may have been compromised.

It “became apparent that confidential employee data was potentially exposed for all employees. Unfortunately, it is impossible for the district to see what the thieves actually accessed at this time, but it is apparent that the breach extends beyond the original employees whose direct deposit was impacted,” the district said in a statement.

Internet scammers stole $56,459 in payroll funds by rerouting direct deposit information from 27 employees, a problem discovered on payday Friday.

District officials blamed the breach on a “phishing” attack in which unsuspecting employees clicked on fake links sent in emails that gave the thieves access to their online information.

The district reported the incident to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which called in the U.S. Secret Service to assist with the case.

The amount of money missing remains the same, but the concern is that many more employees’ information may have been exposed.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said the district cannot provide more information about the data breach because of the ongoing investigation.

The district will work with investigators and determine what additional security measures are needed.

The district will require all employees to change their passwords as an immediate first step.

Carstarphen described the situation as “unsettling” and acknowledged in an email to employees that many questions remain unanswered.

“While I wish that I had more answers, in the spirit of transparency, I wanted to get you this update as soon as possible and I promise to keep you posted as I learn more,” she wrote, in an email to employees.

Fulton County Schools reported that dozens of its employees were targeted in a similar scheme in late August, resulting in a loss of more than $75,000 -- of which $3,400 was recovered.

Cyberthieves tried but failed to reroute direct deposits for 28 Clayton County school district employees, officials said. The district learned of the unsuccessful attack Friday and officials said there was no indication that any money actually was redirected.

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