By Lynn McDonald
As students prepared for a short break to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday Tuesday, Nov. 23, Lewis and Clark Community College was targeted by a ransomware attack, causing a complete campus shutdown.
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 should not attempt logging into anything L&C-related, including email accounts, and they should also physically stay away from campus, according to campus officials.
“I’m worried they will squeeze everything we still have left into one week,” said Jamie Sharp, a nursing student in her final semester. “The nursing program is difficult enough without the confusion of schedule changes.”
The college has made it clear that there will be no penalties for late or missed tests and assignments, but students are still concerned.
L&C student Jeramiah Campagna said he wonders what will happen if this threat continues through the remainder of the semester.
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,” Zhang said.
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.
“I’m shocked that the ransomware attack happened so close to home,” former L&C student Misty Rijo said. “I am wondering why L&C hasn’t applied the necessary security patches to prevent this from happening.”
Many students are wondering what this means as the end of the semester looms on the horizon. Since the majority of the coursework is dependent on Blackboard, it is impossible to access homework. Many of the assignments that can be completed without the online learning management system are still unable to be finished because the instructions are in Blackboard, and they cannot email instructors to submit assignments.
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.
L&C President Ken Trzaska released the following video about the ransomware attack for students and other community members Dec. 3, 2021.