Ransomware attack forces historic Illinois college to close

Lock on Laptop Screen
(Image credit: Future)

Illinois-based private liberal arts college Lincoln College has allegedly been forced to permanently shut its doors due to a ransomware attack.

The move is set to come into effect from May 13 2022, the end of its spring semester according to sources reported by NBC News.

The higher education institution was founded over 157 years ago and has remained in continual operation throughout the Spanish flu of 1918, the Great Depression, and World War II according to a post on its website.

How did it happen?

Lincoln College fell victim to a cyberattack during December 2021, which it said “thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrolment projections”.

The attack rendered all systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts inoperable. 

Fortunately, no personal identifying information was exposed according to the college.

Once systems were fully restored in March 2022, its projections reportedly displayed significant enrolment shortfalls, and Lincoln College then said it required a "transformational donation or partnership" to sustain it beyond the current semester.

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What now?

Lincoln College encourages individuals to review the FAQ documents on the Lincoln College website for more information regarding the closure process.

Academic support and transitional services will be available to students through the remainder of the semester.

Education is a sector which seems to consistently be attracting attention from cybercriminals, with email being a common endpoint used to target users.

Cybersecurity firm Proofpoint identified Covid-19 as being used as a lure in phishing emails targeted at US college students as part of a scheme to steal their credentials.

The Covid-19 themed campaigns that employ Omicron variant ransom strains included thousands of messages targeting students at dozens of universities across North America.

But it’s not just education that is under threat, ransomware is evolving in terms of the threat which it poses to organizations more generally.

A study by US cybersecurity firm Venafi found 83% of successful ransomware attacks now include alternative extortion methods to try and squeeze money out of their victims.

Will McCurdy has been writing about technology for over five years. He has a wide range of specialities including cybersecurity, fintech, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, cloud computing, payments, artificial intelligence, retail technology, and venture capital investment. He has previously written for AltFi, FStech, Retail Systems, and National Technology News and is an experienced podcast and webinar host, as well as an avid long-form feature writer.