According to a recent tweet by the twitter account Ransom Leaks, hackers have targeted three universities in the US with a ransomware attack. The hackers installed ransomware in the universities’ networks and demanded payment in Bitcoin. Ransom Leaks often posts updates on the latest ransomware attacks.
The Details of the Attack
A group that calls itself NetWalker carried out the attack. The hackers recently hacked the University of California San Francisco and Columbia College Chicago. In the initial attack on a university, the hackers targeted the University of Michigan East Lansing on May 27. They then threatened to leak all the data online unless the university paid their ransom. A few days later, they leaked the stolen data online on June 3.
Michigan State University Responds
On June 3, Michigan State University issued a statement about the hack. The university said that they would not pay the ransom demanded. According to them, paying the criminals would have allowed them to live another day and target someone else.
They added that it was important to keep in mind that there were criminal activities. People seeking to make easy money were perpetuating these criminal acts. Instead of paying them, the university would be working closely with law enforcement and following their advice.
The university also revealed that the attack took place on Memorial Day. They said that the attack was limited to the physics and astronomy department at the university. Within hours of finding out about the hack, they took the impacted servers and workstation offline.
The university has said it is working to identify the information that may have been stolen. Anyone who was affected will be provided with the right support. It is believed that the stolen data included financial documents and personal information belonging to students. What is not clear is what impact the release of such personal details will have on those affected.
Such Attacks are Rare
Successful ransomware attacks on higher education institutions and research centers are quite rare. However, attacks on research centers do occur. For instance, hackers recently targeted supercomputers across Europe and attempted to use them to mine crypto.
When ransomware attacks occur, most institutions do not reveal whether they paid the ransom or not. However, MSU was quite honest and they stated that they did not pay the ransom. According to a recent report by Infosecurity Magazine, there is a good chance UCSF and Columbia paid the ransom since they are no longer listed on the Netwalker leak site.
How to Stay Safe
After such an attack, one of the best remedies would be to change passwords, update operating systems, as well as antiviruses. In general, if your details were to be affected by such an attack, it would be wise to change emails to any sensitive accounts held in those emails. Other hackers could use the details to try to carry out a second wave targeting students’ online personas. The statement for MSU also suggested that students at the university should delete data once they are done with it. Additionally, they should use two-factor authentication.
In general, while there is no foolproof way of staying safe online, using the few tips above should make it harder to be targeted.
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