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Malware Attack Knocks NY Community College Offline

According to college officials, 50 computers and the SUNY Erie Community College website were disabled by a malware attack early Wednesday. Colleges and universities have been an increasingly popular target for cybercriminals.

(TNS) — About 50 computers at SUNY Erie Community College were disabled by a malware attack early Wednesday, interim President Bill D. Reuter said. The attack knocked the college's website offline.

No ransom was demanded in the attack that Reuter said was discovered in the early morning hours.

He said the attack seems to have affected only "individual Windows-based staff computers" that were connected to the on-campus network, affecting all three ECC locations.

Erie County Central Police Services and Emergency Management were contacted after Reuter arrived at his office at 6:45 a.m. He said another law enforcement agency, which he wouldn't identify, also was added to the investigation.

Although the damage is still being checked, Reuter said he doesn't believe student data was hacked or lost.

"The malware has been here for quite a while, lying dormant," Reuter said. "We had a problem (Tuesday) night that they thought was solved."

The investigation disclosed that student data was safe because it was in backups, either in servers or in the computer cloud, and those files were not affected by the attack, Reuter said.

"We believe it's only been affecting our staff computers on campus," he added.

Reuter said the college's campuses were closed to everyone except security, maintenance and information technology personnel during the investigation, which will try to determine the source of the malware.

"I think we're in a pretty good position," Reuter said. "I'm cautiously optimistic we'll have full service by (Thursday) afternoon."

He said the State University of New York central office and the University at Buffalo offered assistance after learning of the ECC problem.

Three years ago, Erie County Medical Center was hit by a ransomware attack, in which the hackers demanded the equivalent of $44,000 in Bitcoin, an online currency, to unlock the hospital's files.

Like the ECC attack, the ECMC computers were hit in the predawn hours.

Hospital officials later told The Buffalo News it took six weeks to rebuild their computer system, which was restored through use of an old-school tape backup and access to the regional health care computer network HEALTHeLINK. More than 6,000 computers had been wiped clean of data.

But ECMC did not pay the ransom.

"If you have no backup, you have no choice," ECMC CEO Thomas Quatroche said at the time.

©2020 The Buffalo News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.