Ransomware Shuts Down School for Good

You read the title correctly. Ransomware shuts down school for good. This week we're talking about a school who had to close its doors after 157 years of education because of ransomware attacks.

Let's get into it.


Lincoln College, for those of you who don't know, is an Illinois private college that opened in 1865.

For the past century and a half, they managed to survive through economic crisis', major campus fires, the Spanish flu, World War II and more. 

Unfortunately, it's been the circumstances of the past few years that shut them down for good.

 

What cause Lincoln to Close Their Doors?

Following months of ongoing ransomware attacks, Lincoln College announces its decision to "cease all academic programming" for good. 

The school was already in talks with the Illinois Department of Higher Education when they let the school board know that as of May 13th, their doors will close permanently.  And they did.

This motion to close didn't come out of nowhere. It was an accumulation of a few things that ultimately led them to closure. While a significant amount of recruitment and fundraising fell off during the pandemic, it seems this cyberattack was the tipping point for the Illinois institution.

This closure will make Lincoln College the first school in the United States to close in part due to a ransomware attack.

 

The Pandemic Hit Hard, but Ransomware Hit Harder

Lincoln College was seemingly on a positive trajectory. They saw record-breaking student enrollment in the fall of 2019. All was well going into winter break in that year.

However, this growth took a turn once Covid-19 came to the United States. Like most schools, Lincoln saw a domino effect with the drop in enrollment and even some students deciding to defer their degrees. 

Lincoln, being one of only a few rural institutions known as a predominantly Black school, said this drop in enrollments began to negatively impact their financial standings.

To make matters worse, getting hit by continuous ransomware attacks in December took them months to resolve. The attack, "thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data." Lincoln was unable to access crucial data that to project their academic and financial well-being.

Therefore, the lack of network access and projections made enrollment for the fall of 2022 very unclear.

A schools network is what allows them to operate recruitment, retention and fundraising efforts. When these resources are inoperable for months, Lincoln put off making projections for their next enrollment season.

In March of this year, Lincoln was able to fully restore their systems and data bases. This should have been a win for the school. but unfortunately it was not.

Their projections gave a short coming in enrollment numbers. Financially, Lincoln would need a massive donation or partnership to be able to sustain themselves.

Without much hope of a last minute reprieve, the pandemic and cyberattack have put an end to this 157-year-old institution. 

 

Ransomware is Becoming a Major Problem for Schools

It truly is unfortunate that Lincoln is the first school to shut down due to ransomware. However, they were one of over a thousand institutions affected by ransomware last year.

According to a 2021 Emsisoft Report, 88 education organizations saw a direct impact of ransomware. Which includes 62 school districts and 26 college campuses across the country. The impact totaling 1,043 schools.

Private data was stolen from at least half of these organizations. Resulting in the releasing of confidential staff and student information online. 

The cost, although impossible to estimate, is undoubtably devastating. In 2019, a ransomware attack on the Baltimore County Public schools resulted in them spending $8.1 million to recover the information they lost.

For years, ransomware attacks have been a continual threat to the US education system. In December 2020, CISA and the FBI issued a combined advisory warning K-12 educational institutions that malicious actors were targeting them for extortion and data theft.

Three months later, in March 2021, the FBI's Cyber Division gave warning to system administrators that Pysa ransomware was increasingly targeting educational institutions.

Multiple US Senators issued a call to action in November, urging the US Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to beef up cybersecurity defenses at K-12 schools across the country in order to keep up with an upcoming wave of attacks.

 



It is so important that these institutions put in place strong cybersecurity defenses.

For ways of preventing ransomware attacks, be sure to check out our video on "7 Ways we can Prevent Ransomware Attacks"

If you are looking for cybersecurity options to defend yourself from ransomware attacks, we can help. Feel free to book a time to chat with us via the Calendly link below. I'd be happy to discuss ways to optimize your company's IT

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