By Lynn McDonald
As students prepared for a short break to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on Tuesday, November 23, Lewis and Clark Community College was targeted by a ransomware attack, causing a complete campus shutdown.
In an interview with Fox 2 News, Washington University assistant professor Ning Zhang, of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, shared information on ransomware attacks. “Cyber-criminals infiltrate into your organization and use something as a cryptography to lock up your files or systems, therefore denying you the opportunity to access your systems. It’s almost like going to your house and changing the door lock on you.”
Professor Zhang went on to say that this is a “big class of attack” that is widespread and affects a large variety of businesses and educational facilities.
It must be a big deal, as the Lewis and Clark IT department has been fighting the attack for nearly a week, and yesterday school authorities made the decision to close campus for the entire week while they continue battling the invasion.
Students and staff are not to attempt logging into anything LC related, including email accounts, and should physically stay away from campus.
What does this mean for students as the end of the semester looms on the horizon? Since the majority of work is Blackboard dependent these days, it is quite literally impossible to access homework. Many of the assignments that can be completed without the online app are still unable to be finished because the instructions are in Blackboard. The college has made it clear that there will be no penalties for late or missed tests and assignments, but for many, that is little comfort.
LC student Jeramiah Campagna wonders what will happen if this threat continues through the remainder of the semester.
Jamie Sharp, a nursing student in her final semester, said, “I’m worried they will squeeze everything we still have left into one week. The nursing program is difficult enough without the confusion of schedule changing.”
Misty Rijo, a former LC student, shares her reaction to the news. “I’m shocked that the ransomware attack happened so close to home. I am wondering why LCCC hasn’t applied the necessary security patches to prevent this from happening.”
The only thing that is clear at this point is that the campus is completely closed until further notice and all extracurricular activities have been canceled. Lewis and Clark is keeping students and staff regularly updated through text messages, and they have set up an Emergency Operations Page for alerts.