Breaking: PAUSD website outage after attack on service provider

Payton Anderson and Brennen Ho

Assistant Principal Erik Olah discusses the impact of the ongoing disruptions to the PAUSD website. On Thursday, issues with Finalsite caused the website to be taken down. Olah said he doesn’t believe any permanent issues have stemmed from the attack. “I noticed it [the website] is not fully back to where it needs to be yet,” Olah said. “I don’t anticipate any long term issues.” (Photo: Anna Feng)

Additional reporting by Sophia Yang, Anna Feng, and Madison Abbassi.

An issue with the Palo Alto Unified School District’s website provider Finalsite resulted in the shutdown of the PAUSD website on Thursday, making key COVID information inaccessible.

According to PAUSD Chief Tech Official Derek Moore, Finalsite released a notice on Tuesday detailing suspicious activity within their network. Moore said that the activity prompted the company to shut down their entire service, which resulted in a complete shutdown of the PAUSD website.

“They have been upfront and shared everything that they can,” Moore said. “No personal data has been compromised.”

On Thursday morning, Moore and the PAUSD tech team decided to transfer essential district services to a temporary website. Moore said the team used their previous website analytics to see which pages were most popular and moved those to the temporary website.

“On that site [the temporary PAUSD website] is both registration information, COVID information, how to get to Let’s Talk, how to contact us, and other forms of communication through the district,” Moore said.

According to Moore, the district’s main website will remain down until the Finalsite can resume its normal service.

“We anticipate being up Monday morning but we’ll see,” Moore said. “We’re at the mercy of the speed that Finalsite can recover.”

Assistant Principal Erik Olah said that this shutdown was caused by more than what was previously assumed to have been a power-related issue. This sudden “breach in security” hindered PAUSD’s ability to provide relevant information to the community.

“To lose that tool of a website that has a lot of communication for us just means that we have to pick up the slack on that communication,” Olah said.

With the official website down, access to COVID resources and data surrounding cases is unavailable. According to Olah, the sudden recent surge in COVID-19 cases on campus has made COVID-19 resources even more valuable, and the district has made sure to include testing resources within its temporary website.

“Cases are definitely going up, and we’re seeing that,” Olah said. “We need to continue to be vigilant and careful with everything we do.”