CYBER security specialists are looking into whether information about staff and students from one of the region’s leading secondary schools has been leaked to the dark web.

The National Crime Agency is investigating after hackers carried out a ransomware attack at Durham Johnston School in Durham.

A ransomware attack is where information is encrypted so users cannot access their files, databases or applications before ransom demands are made.

The Northern Echo was told the attack was carried out by a group known as Vice-Society, which reportedly claimed responsibility for a cyber attack on Spar stores last month.

The source said personal data about pupils and teachers has been posted on the dark web, part of the internet which requires special software for access and is associated with criminality.

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The investigation into the attack is being led by Durham County Council.

Andrew O’Sullivan, headteacher at Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, said: “I can confirm that the school has been the victim of a ransomware attack. “While this has affected our IT network, we have worked tirelessly to restore functionality and to ensure that the school has been able to continue to operate a full service for all students.

“We have also been able to successfully restore our systems and have continued to prioritise a high-quality education for all students.

“We are aware that some limited data was compromised during the incident and an ongoing investigation is being carried out by Durham County Council, which manages our IT services, with support from forensic cyber security specialists and the National Crime Agency.

“Due to the sophisticated nature of the attack, the investigation is likely to take several weeks and will result in a report that details the extent and impact of the criminal activity that has taken place.

“While this is a difficult situation, our main priority remains providing an excellent education and experience for all students and staff.

“We will continue to work closely with the council, police, National Crime Agency and regulators and will you keep you updated on progress.”

Durham Constabulary has confirmed police have been informed of the attack.

A force spokeswoman said: “An investigation is ongoing.”

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