Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Oct. 3. I’m Christian Martinez, a member of the Times’ Fast Break Team.
A hacker group calling itself Vice Society has taken credit for a massive early September cyberattack targeting Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second-largest school district. Hackers claimed to have stolen 500 gigabytes of private data, though the full extent of the exfiltration is still being evaluated.
It took time for schools to resume normal operations, with some resources inaccessible or interrupted. The Los Angeles Police Department was joined by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in investigating the infiltration by a “ransomware tool.”
The hack set off a series of events that culminated Saturday when, as my colleague Howard Blume reported, the data were released after district officials refused to pay a ransom.
The hackers had set a Monday deadline for the district to pay an undisclosed sum, but apparently decided to dump the data two days early.
The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in an alert that Vice Society had been the culprits in other recent attacks against educational institutions but did not confirm that the group had targeted LAUSD.
After the hack, The Times obtained a redacted cybersecurity audit conducted two years ago that identified key vulnerabilities in LAUSD’s data system — with auditors able to access “a limited number of Social Security numbers,” the report said.
Some screenshots from this recent hack reviewed by The Times appeared to show some Social Security numbers. Other documents appear to be forms with confidential information from the facilities services division and W-9s — official forms furnished by the IRS for employers or other entities to verify the name, address and tax identification number, typically a Social Security number, of an individual receiving income.
LAUSD is not alone. Hackers this year have attacked at least 27 U.S. school districts and 28 colleges, said Brett Callow, threat analyst for the digital security firm Emsisoft. At least 36 of those organizations had data stolen and released online, and at least two districts and one college paid the attackers, Callow said.
However, LAUSD held firm in refusing to pay.
“What I can tell you is that the demand — any demand — would be absurd,” LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho told The Times on Friday. “But this level of demand was, quite frankly, insulting. And we’re not about to enter into negotiations with that type of entity.”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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Houston energy firm responsible for O.C. oil spill can fix its pipeline: After receiving permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Amplify Energy Corp. can fix a ruptured pipeline that sent 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the waters off the Orange County coast last fall. The spill prompted beach closures for several weeks and disrupted the fishing industry. Los Angeles Times
Caruso gains on Bass in latest poll: The Los Angeles mayoral race appears to be heating up as a new Times-sponsored UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows developer Rick Caruso has gained ground on Rep. Karen Bass. Los Angeles Times
Madame Wu, who served Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, dead at 106: Famed restaurateur Madame Sylvia Wu has died. Though her restaurant, Madame Wu’s Garden, served Hollywood A-listers for decades, Wu may have been more glamorous than the stars she hosted — wearing floor-length silk gowns and riding in a Rolls-Royce. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Newsom’s vetoes may paint portrait of a moderate: Gov. Gavin Newsom is often outspoken on a number of progressive issues, sharply criticizing restrictive abortion laws and anti-LGBTQ+ policies. But he has rejected about 14.5% of the bills submitted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year. San Francisco Chronicle
Newsom signs family leave bill: A new bill will allow lower-income workers to recoup more income lost from time off taken to care for family members. The law will take effect in 2025. CalMatters
Marin County no longer haven for vaccine skeptics: Marin County was once an anti-vaccine hotbed. Now, the Bay Area county is embracing the COVID-19 vaccine. New York Times
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
‘Series of killings’ is related, Stockton police say: Five homicides reported in Stockton since July are related, police said Friday. All five male victims were shot and killed. Los Angeles Times
Box office is all ‘Smile’, ‘Bros’ disappoints: Horror-flick “Smile” won the weekend box office handily with a $22-million debut. The Billy Eichner-led, gay rom-com “Bros” took in $4.8 million despite strong reviews from audiences and critics. Los Angeles Times
Bad Bunny takes L.A.: The Los Angeles City Council declared Oct. 1, 2022, as Bad Bunny Day in tribute to one of the world’s hottest musical acts. LAist
Jaime Jarrín ‘driven by sense of duty’ as Latino immigrant: Longtime Spanish-language Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín is signing off. Times columnist Dylan Hernandez writes about the icon as a proud Latino and immigrant. Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles: 82 and partly cloudy. San Diego: 74 and partly cloudy. San Francisco: 68 and partly cloudy. San Jose: 75 and partly cloudy. Fresno: 89 and sunny. Sacramento: 88 and sunny.
Today’s California memory is from Julie Ward:
In July 1961, this Florida girl married a San Francisco guy and together we drove across country to San Francisco. My new husband was eager to show me his city. As we were leaving his family home, my mother-in-law handed me a coat. She said, “It is sunny now but the fog will roll in at 3 p.m.” Not wanting to offend my new mother-in-law, I took the coat and we set off. Sure enough, at 3 p.m., the fog arrived and I was freezing! The next day, my mother-in-law and I went to the City of Paris department store and I bought my first “California coat.”
— Julie Ward
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism