Howard University Halts Classes After Ransomware Attack

Howard University Campus in Washington D.C. with a sign board, and trees and buildings in the background

Howard University in Washington D.C. canceled classes on Tuesday to investigate a ransomware attack that happened last week. This incident adds to a growing list of malicious cyberattacks on universities and schools across the globe.

Howard University’s information technology (IT) team detected unusual activity on the university’s network on September 3rd. In an official update, the University stated that it consequently shut down the network in order to investigate the situation.

Based on the investigation, the University labeled the situation a ransomware attack. Howard University is now working with “leading external forensic experts and law enforcement to fully investigate the incident and the impact,” it said.

As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that any personal information was accessed or exfiltrated. However, the University has said it will provide further clarity on the facts and the impact of the attack after completing its investigation.

Heightened IT Security at Howard University

The University’s response to the attack “would be from a position of heightened security,” it said.

The University canceled classes on Tuesday, September 7th, to give its IT team more time to investigate the incident. Additionally, the physical campus will only be open to essential staff, and campus WiFi will be down until further notice. Applications stored in the cloud will remain active and accessible.

The University announced that it will inform members of the status of campus operations at 2 p.m. local time each day. Describing the situation as highly “dynamic,” it said that its priority was to “protect all sensitive personal information, research, and clinical data.”

Growing Cyber Attacks on Universities and Schools

The University is now in contact with the FBI and the Washington D.C. Government, it said. It is also installing additional safety measures to further protect the data of all parties.

In July 2021, the US education sector witnessed a 15% rise in cyberattacks over the first half of the year. Last year, US intelligence warned that malicious actors are targeting schools and universities.

For example, in June this year, the University of California faced a ransomware attack that led them to pay the hackers $1.14 million.

Furthermore, the US is not the only country to face such attacks. In December 2019, the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands was hit by a ransomware attack, resulting in a payment of 30 Bitcoin to the hackers.

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.