Ransomware Aligns Its Sights with Schools

Following the cyber-attacks that occurred in Baltimore and Florida, last week, Monroe College in New York, had multiple campuses hit, and taken offline, by ransomware, crippling the college’s network. This has not just affected the school’s administrative departments; however; it has also hurt students and teachers. The ransomware is asking for an obscene $2 million for the safe return of the college’s data.

Jackie Rugger, the executive director of public affairs at the college, said in an interview on Friday (07/12) with Inside Higher Ed that the school was still unsure who had carried out the attack, but that the school was actively working with local law enforcement and the FBI in order to determine where the attack originated from. There was no comment on whether the school would pay the $2 million ransom.

For now, Rugger said, the school continues to operate. However, they have been forced to resort to using “historic” methods. Students and teachers have still been able to attend classes, with homework being turned in on paper.

Ransomware infections are usually due to someone on the network falling victim to a phishing email scam. It is difficult to determine the severity and exact amount of ransomware attacks that occur daily, but cybersecurity firms believe that attacks are on the rise.

What makes this attack different is that ransomware attacks that focus on colleges usually focus on a specific individual rather than the entire network, said Ben Woelk, according to Insider Higher Ed. He stated that this attack is demanding an amount of money he had ever witnessed before. Depending on how Monroe College reacts to this technological hostage situation could determine whether we see a string of upcoming ransomware attacks on colleges across the country.

Cybersecurity analysts, as well as the FBI, believe that no business or institution should pay the ransom, should their network become infected. With no guarantee that the criminals would provide a key upon payment, it seems as though not paying would be a company’s best option. However, with ransomware, companies must understand that with each day, the ransom will continue to increase. In Baltimore, the city government refused to pay to ransom, opting to revamp its network, costing over $18 million. Therefore, despite the lack of reliability on criminals, businesses, and institution placed in this situation must come to terms with the lesser of two evils.

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