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Louisiana Community College System Hit with Ransomware

Baton Rouge Community College servers and computers have been shut down following a ransomware attack, officials confirmed. The incident happened between sessions, when students are not on campus.

by Mark Ballard, The Advocate / December 12, 2019
Shutterstock/Timofeev Vladimir

(TNS) — Going into commencement, Baton Rouge Community College computers were hit with ransomware.

The Louisiana State Police have been called in and the computer servers have been shut down, Kizzy Payton, BRCC’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“The Louisiana State Police Cyber Crime Unit investigators responded immediately and collected evidence from the BRCC network, and have recently confirmed a cyberintrusion and ransomware situation,” interim chancellor Willie Smith wrote in a memo released to some campus personnel.

“Presently, the situation is being contained and representatives from the Office of Technology Services are assisting BRCC with network restoration efforts," Smith wrote. "The college didn’t pay a ransom, and we are not aware of any data loss. The investigation remains ongoing at this time, and the IT Department will be sharing additional information regarding cybersecurity efforts and the restoration of individuals PCs.

But it’s between sessions. No students are on campus and graduation ceremonies are going on as planned for Friday.

"Nothing is impacting our commencement," Payton added. Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation & Development, is the featured speaker for the ceremony that begins at 10 a.m. Friday.

Tech personnel were unsure if BRCC’s computers had been hacked as the state’s system was last month. No ransom note has been found, Payton said.

But out of an abundance of caution the college’s computer servers were taken down to allow technicians to carefully check programming and determine what caused the alarms to go off.

Students can still access email accounts through a roundabout method and the remaining grades from the last semester are being entered manually, she said. The only task slowed by the computers being offline is enrollment services. But Payton most of the students had already enrolled and while enrolling new students is taking more time, it task is being accomplished.

Last month, technicians found state government’s computer systems had been attacked with malware that threatened to lock users out of state computers unless a ransom was paid. The state paid no ransom.

In an all-hands on deck situation, technicians shut down computer servers while the National Guard, State Police, LSU and other experts went over the entire system looking to see if the malware had spread. Technicians then recopied the programs onto computers. Most state agencies were offline for about a week.

But the Office of Motor Vehicles, which had 40-year-old equipment, couldn’t process drivers’ licenses and car registrations for two weeks. Two OMV offices were still closed on Wednesday.

©2019 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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