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Olszewski Troubled By Contact Made WIth BCPS Hackers Without Consulting Police

John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski sent a scathing letter Friday to the county school superintendent, charging his response to the November 24 cyberattack on the school system has been disjointed and ineffective.

In the letter to Superintendent Darryl Williams, obtained by WYPR, Olszewski accuses school officials of not fully cooperating with the county police department in its criminal investigation. In the letter, Olszewski said law enforcement was not involved in a decision by the school system or its third party consultants to contact the attackers.

A spokesman for Olszewski declined to elaborate, saying "the letter speaks for itself."

“At this juncture, it is unclear whether BCPS knows the identities of the hackers or the amount of ransom requested,” Olszewski wrote. “There will be legal, financial and reputational consequences to an independent decision by BCPS to pay the ransom. Those consequences will be wide-ranging and long-lasting.”

Olszewski, a former county school teacher, said it is clear that local, state and federal officials are not getting timely and accurate information about the attack from the school system. For that reason, Olszewski said the county is scaling back its efforts, shifting from daily emergency operations meetings with the school system to twice a week.

“A coordinated disaster response works only if all parties are fully committed to an open exchange of information among experts and decision-makers around a single table,” Olszewski wrote.

In a letter also obtained by WYPR, Superintendent Williams fired back at Olszewski.

"It is unfortunate you have decided to withdraw support and resources from the school system," Williams wrote.

He listed ways the school system has benefited from collaborating with the county. They include providing computers and helping in printing checks. Williams also said when Olszewski activated the county's emergency operations center to deal with the ransomware attack, the school system joined in.

"I believe that our teams have worked collaboratively and productively during the crisis to support instruction," Williams wrote.

In the letter, Williams did not bring up the contact with the attackers. A school spokesman declined to comment.

Williams did write that school officials have worked with the FBI and have not attempted to exclude anyone from the criminal investigation.

"We have answered questions when we were able to do so and have referred questions to investigators and legal representatives when we have not," Williams wrote.

The cyberattack crippled the BCPS computer system and canceled classes for three days.

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