LAWRENCE — Hackers breached Lawrence Public Schools’ online database, acquiring teachers’ personal information, possibly including their Social Security numbers, school officials said.

In an email to teachers Friday evening, Superintendent/Receiver Jeff Riley said the data breach was the result of a “phishing attack directed at Lawrence Public Schools.”

Phishing is the act of defrauding an online financial information holder by posing as a legitimate company. 

“We are taking this incident extremely seriously,” Riley wrote. “Today and in the coming days and week, we are taking steps to address this breach, including the immediate actions to mitigate the impact of the breach as well as doing everything possible to prevent similar breaches in the future.” 

In the email, Riley  said the breach may have disclosed employees’ names, phone numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers and calendar year 2015 gross earnings. However, the breach did not include any employees’ bank account information, according to Riley. 

In addition to the email sent to employees, the district issued a press release Saturday afternoon. The release said no student data was compromised in the breach. 

District officials would not discuss other details of the breach, citing an investigation led by the Massachusetts State Police. In addition, school officials are working with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations.

According to district spokesman Chris Markuns, all employees whose information may have been disclosed have been encouraged to sign up with Equifax, a free 90-day service that provides credit and identity fraud protection. 

Markuns said the suggestion was made “as a protective measure due to the breach” but the service would not have prevented the breach in the first place.  

Frank McLaughlin, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union, said Saturday “90 days is clearly not enough” to protect against future breaches and a more permanent solution is  needed.

“This is the world we live in now. Everything is computerized; this stuff happens all the time,” McLaughlin said. “But I have to make sure my (union) members are protected. The School Department needs to hire professionals to protect employee financial data and credit rating.” 

McLaughlin met with Riley and other district officials Saturday afternoon. According to the email sent to teachers, the district’s central office at 233 Haverhill St. was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for employees with questions. The office will remain open today. 

Employees may also call a hotline number, 978-722-8777, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Follow Garrin Marchetti on Twitter @GarrinMarchetti.

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