The Los Angeles Valley College became an unfortunate victim of a cyberattack and had to give in to the demand of the hackers which was a ransom of $28,000 in Bitcoin.
It was only after the L.A. Valley College paid the hackers the demanded ransom in Bitcoin — a virtual currency — it received the decryption key and could restore access.
"In consultation with district and college leadership, outside cybersecurity experts and law enforcement, a payment of $28,000 was made by the District," noted Francisco C. Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District.
The hacking was noticed by the college administration on Dec. 30, 2016, when a virus left the entire computer system inaccessible. The college was unable to access the voice mails, as well as the emails.
A threat note was sent, which demanded the authorities to pay up the amount within a week, else the hacker would remove the private keys, making it virtually impossible for the college to recover any files.
The hackers also noted that since all the files on the server were encrypted, the decryption key for the same would only be made available to the college authorities if they paid up.
Payment Of Ransom
The helpless college authorities gave in to the demands of the cyberattackers and shelled out the $28,000 through Bitcoin as ransom.
The demanded ransom was paid on Jan. 4, after discussions with the college's IT staff, cybersecurity experts, and the law enforcement. The college got assistance with funds and information to negotiate the situation thanks to the cybersecurity insurance policy scheme that covers such attacks.
As promised by the hackers, the college received the decrypting key after the payment was made.
However, reports suggest that it will take the college some time before all the files get unlocked. That said, the key has worked effectively on every single attempt.
Ransomware is a malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until the demanded ransom is paid.
However, law enforcement usually advises people not to give in to these demands as it will only fuel these malpractices. Moreover, even if the ransom is paid there is no guarantee that the data will remain intact.
Reports suggest that in the United States, almost 20 universities and colleges came under cyberattack in 2016, which included the University of Virginia, University of Central Florida, University of Connecticut, and the Michigan State University.
Cybersecurity expert Phil Lieberman opined that most of these attacks originate from the Eastern part of Europe. Since the country doesn't have any diplomatic pact with these countries, it is very hard to contain them.
Experts predict that these kinds of attacks on big enterprises will see a spike in the coming days. The hackers will target those who are willing to pay them a large amount of ransom.
The risk of ransomware attacks can be minimized by deploying solid malware protection, following email security guidelines and making regular offline backups.
Photo Credit: Zach Copley | Flickr