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NY's Monroe College Faced Ransomware Attack

Monroe College tweet

A cyberattack struck New York's Monroe College last week, bringing down its website and e-mail system and creating disruptions to online courses and operations at the college's three campuses. According to reporting by the Daily News, the school's computer systems were hacked and locked up by somebody who demanded 170 Bitcoins in ransom, worth about $1.6 million at current rates. Because cryptocurrency transactions can be done anonymously, figuring out who was behind the break-in would be "difficult," the newspaper said.

The college hasn't publicly stated if it paid the ransom. However, as of today, Monroe's websites were back up. A Monroe spokeswoman told the newspaper that face-to-face classes remained in session while systems were down. "The good news is that the college was founded in 1933, so we know how to teach and educate without these [computer-based] tools," she explained, adding that the school was looking for "workarounds" so that online students would be able to get their assignments.

During the outage, the college's Facebook and Twitter sites, which weren't affected, provided some information: "As you may have seen, our website is down as well as a few of our other systems. Our sleeves are rolled up and we're working hard to get everything back up and running. In the meantime, the college is open. Classes are being held, student activities are taking place, and we're enrolling new students for September. So, if you're thinking about joining us next semester, come on in and say 'hello'!"

However, the institution added, students should "give ... a call" while e-mail was down.

According to a recent "state of e-mail security" report published by security vendor Mimecast, the kind of phishing that possibly led to the recent ransomware attack has been on the rise. The company reported that 56 percent of organizations in education have seen increases in phishing with malicious links or attachments in the last year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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