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Sierra College Computer System Shut Down by Ransomware

Sierra College in Northern California is working with law enforcement and third-party cybersecurity and forensic experts to investigate a ransomware attack that targeted the college’s website and other online systems.

(TNS) — Officials at a Northern California community college confirmed Thursday that the outage of the college website and online systems is the result of a ransomware attack, the second such incident in the Sacramento region in the last year.

"We are currently experiencing technical difficulties on the Sierra College website and some other online systems," spokesman Josh Morgan wrote in an email statement Thursday, one day after college officials began investigating the nature of the outage.

"This is the result of an external ransomware attack on our systems. We are working with law enforcement and third-party cyber security and forensic experts to investigate this incident, assess the potential impact, and bring our systems back online.

"We want our students, their parents, and the Sierra College community to know that we place a high value on maintaining the integrity and security of the data we hold in our systems. We also want everyone to know that we are working diligently to restore operations.

"Both restoring operations and our investigation are ongoing. We will provide an additional update once our investigation is complete."

The Rocklin-based community college gave no further details on the outage or what, if any, demands had been made by hackers. They first alerted students and others Wednesday of an outage, and law enforcement officials told The Bee then that they were not aware of a ransomware attack.

The incident is the second in the region since September, when Cache Creek Casino Resort was forced to shut down for more than three weeks following an external attack on its computer systems.

Cache Creek, about an hour west of Sacramento, shut down Sept. 20 following what officials termed a "systems infrastructure failure." They later conceded the casino's computer system was the subject of an attack, and the FBI began probing the incident.

Ransomware attacks have plagued the casino industry and other business as hackers find their way through security and infiltrate systems to encrypt data and make it inaccessible unless a ransom is paid.

Two weeks ago, a ransomware attack forced the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the primary delivery system on the East Coast for gas and other products.

The shutdowns spawned massive panic buying and long lines at gas stations throughout the Southeast, and the pipeline company reportedly paid $4.4 million in ransom.

©2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.