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


Data for roughly 6,000 employees may be compromised

Superintendent calls situation ‘unsettling’

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.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Schools, parents don’t want learning, or fun, snowed under
Schools, parents don’t want learning, or fun, snowed under

Clayton County Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley took to social media Wednesday morning with a plan for his students stuck at home as metro Atlanta contended with icy roads and freezing temps: Go play in the snow. “I think it’s important that we let kids be kids,” he said. “When life, through whatever method, gives us...
Let the snow come: these districts don’t miss days
Let the snow come: these districts don’t miss days

Wednesday was a snow day, but still a school day, for many metro Atlanta students. Some school districts, such as Gwinnett and Forsyth, use online lesson plans and assignments for students to avoid missing a snow day, a practice they’ve used for a few years, to the disappointment of some students. In Gwinnett, the state’s largest school...
Emory, Georgia State, KSU canceling classes Thursday
Emory, Georgia State, KSU canceling classes Thursday

Some metro Atlanta colleges and universities are canceling classes Thursday, due to continued severe weather conditions. Georgia State, Kennesaw State University, Agnes Scott College and Georgia Gwinnett College will be closed Thursday. Emory University, including Oxford College, will also be closed, officials announced.   The closing applies...
Whether and when to close schools is tough call even for experienced districts
Whether and when to close schools is tough call even for experienced districts

There’s always griping about how the south overreacts to snow, while districts farther north soldier through bad weather. But deciding whether and when to close schools is an imprecise science even in areas accustomed to wintry weather, as shown today in Montgomery County in Maryland. Parents there were not happy...
Metro Atlanta schools announce Thursday closures as ice, cold linger
Metro Atlanta schools announce Thursday closures as ice, cold linger

Atlanta Public Schools, Gwinnett County, Fulton County, DeKalb County, Cobb County, Clayton County, Marietta City Schools and Henry County Schools are among the area districts to announce they will be closed Thursday because of concerns that ice and cold temperatures will persist. Also closed Thursday are City Schools of Decatur, Fayette County Public...
More Stories