HUMBLE, Texas - It was a rough start to the school year at Humble ISD, when the school district’s online learning system stopped working on the first day of school Tuesday morning. The district launched the school year with all students doing virtual learning to avoid spreading COVID-19.
Humble ISD officials say they were hit with a “denial of service cyberattack” around 8 a.m., meaning “those with bad intentions” sent unnecessary requests to their server, overwhelming and preventing the students and staff who were actually trying to access their school material from doing so.
“We were sitting waiting trying to get in the meeting at 8 a.m.,” said LaQuita Emanuel, whose son is beginning tenth grade at Humble High School. “It didn’t actually start until 10…. My question to them all: was it tested? Had they tested knowing that you’re going to have 50,000 kids and teachers trying to get on, trying to log on.”
Melanie Wright has three children attending elementary school in Humble ISD. She says she initially thought she was having Internet issues when she tried unsuccessfully to access the school district’s server.
“The Humble ISD website: it was really hectic because we couldn’t log in this morning like we were supposed to,” said Wright.
The school district resolved the server error in about an hour, but Wright says that’s only one of the challenges she’s facing as she works on educating her kids at home.
“It’s really hard to keep them focused and sitting down,” said Wright. “Some of them want to get up since they’re at home.”
Kingwood High School ninth-grader Anthony Sayegh says he’s not surprised by the server problems, but then again the entire experience is not how he had anticipated the start of high school.
“I don’t know how you protect a website like that...when there’s so many people logging in,” said Sayegh. “I was planning to make a bunch of new friends, but now I just see them online, so I can still talk to them.”
Cyber experts say the “denial of service” that happened at Humble ISD is not uncommon.
“When so many people are trying to hit one server at one single time, it actually stops the Internet,” said Michael Garfield, a tech expert with The High-Tech Texan. “It stops that server. It’s like 500 people trying to squeeze through a front door. You can’t do it all at once.”
Garfield says families can help improve online learning on their end by calling their internet service provider and making sure they have the fastest internet connection. They can also make sure they’re placing their WiFi router close to where the computer is located.