Ransomware and COVID Prove Too Much for Historic IL College

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Lincoln College is one of the most historic colleges in Illinois. With ground first being broken back in 1865, the school has seen a lot of history play out for its students, and they have endured horrific times in our nation’s past. Now they have found themselves unable to continue due to a ransomware attack of all things. Never mind their ability to battle through the great depression, two world wars, and numerous presidents with vastly different thoughts on higher education.

The school recently made an announcement on its website about the closing. “Lincoln College was a victim of a cyberattack in December 2021 that thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections. All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable. Fortunately, no personal identifying information was exposed. Once fully restored in March 2022, the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester.”

Since its inception, the school was named for President Abraham Lincoln and was one of the only rural historically black colleges per the Department of Education’s rating system. Unfortunately, when they were hit by this ransomware attack, they just lacked the funding or support to make it through this when combined with COVID and an ever-decreasing pool of students. When no celebrity or big superstar looking for a quick headline in the mainstream media showed up to help save the black college, they were forced to make the announcement. Funny how black lives matter when it comes to interacting with the police or avoiding blame for any crime they may commit, but not when it comes to their higher education.

These kinds of cyber-attacks are especially devastating to colleges, as they target their infrastructure systems right at the heart of the source. By locking down the system these organizations retain and will destroy information if not given what they want. Getting the software off these systems is near impossible without a team of specially trained individuals, and even then there is no guarantee it will work.

The Research and Education Networks Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) serves as a nonprofit that is dedicated to helping colleges to pool information and resources to get through the toll these kinds of attacks can take. Unfortunately for Lincoln college, they were not a part of ISAC. Kim Milford expressed remorse at being unable to help them. “I feel really bad for Lincoln College and wish there was some way we could help, but it can be a very expensive proposition when you’re hit by ransomware.”

She’s right too. These kinds of attacks have cost corporations and taxpayers trillions of dollars over the years. From colleges to police offices to hospitals. No institution is safe, and these hackers will do what they must to get their money. When the Baltimore public school system was hit it cost them nearly $10 million to get the attack resolved. Lincoln college on the other hand refused to provide details about the attack.

While their silence for the moment is something that makes sense, it cannot stay that way. If these ransomware attacks are taking down a historic organization like Lincoln college then the details about these attacks need to be made public. The people who have paid for a degree just to have them shut down, or those on their way to a degree who now need to pray to the Gods of Procrasionaticus and Caffineralious (ask any college student and they’ll know them) that their credits will transfer if another school accepts them.