A portion of the roughly $150,000 in payroll stolen from the Stanley-Boyd School District has been recovered as of Tuesday afternoon.
AnchorBank, which serves the school district, has recovered some of the stolen funds, which were rerouted by hackers from the school district’s Nov. 23 payroll.
“The bank has already retrieved a good portion of our money and is continuing to retrieve more,” Superintendent Jim Jones said.
The school district was first alerted of an issue by AnchorBank on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at about 4 p.m.
“Unfortunately, hackers appear to have accessed our direct deposit file which resulted in a loss of approximately $150,000,” Jones said.
AnchorBank, based out of Madison, was still able to pay all Stanley-Boyd employees on time on Friday. Jones said the school district’s liability insurance will cover the loss.
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Chippewa County Sheriff James Kowalczyk was informed of the incident by Jones on Thanksgiving Day. Kowalczyk said the bank called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the investigation.
Jennifer Ranville, public relations director for AnchorBank, said it has very strong layers of security to avoid hacking efforts to customer accounts.
“There is no evidence that any of AnchorBank's computer systems have been hacked or otherwise compromised,” Ranville said.
Bob Seidl, president of the Stanley-Boyd teacher’s union, said district employees have been directed not to comment as the investigation continues.
“Obviously people are concerned,” Seidl said of the staff members at Stanley-Boyd.
Ranville said that AnchorBank is working with school district employees to change accounts.
“We are ... working with our impacted customers that are employees of the school district to close out their accounts and open new ones, since their account information may have been compromised,” she said.
“No other AnchorBank customer accounts were impacted by this event.”
Similarly, Jones said the school district has been examining its security options.
“Beyond the obvious changing of system passwords within the district, we have already worked with AnchorBank to make our system of money transferring more secure on our end in the future,” the superintendent said.
The school district is also looking into its options for individual financial protection for school employees, Jones added.
Kowalczyk said the Stanley-Boyd case is an unusual one for Chippewa County.
Since his office has not been involved in the criminal investigation, Kowalczyk couldn’t comment specifically on the reported theft. However the sheriff did add: “I’m guessing there is a strong possibility that the hacker involved in this is not in the continental U.S.”
The payroll theft at Stanley-Boyd has brought up security conversations at other school districts.
Cadott Superintendent Joe Zydowsky said he spoke to his staff on Tuesday about the hacking of Stanley-Boyd’s payroll.
“We make it a real high priority to keep the information of our employees very secure,” Zydowsky said. “However we also recognize that despite our best efforts, there still can be situations where hacking or theft can occur.”
Zydowsky said the district encourages employees to monitor their payroll as best practice in making sure they receive payments on-time.
“We feel we do a very good job in working with our local bank and doing our best in trying to ensure security of that information,” he added.