Carleton University is the latest victim of a ransomware attack with multiple windows system in the University’s network locked and demanding for a ransom for unlock code.
The University posted an update on November 29 on its website regarding the ransomware attack wherein it noted that the its Computing and Communications Services department detected an attempt by an external group or individual to hack into the IT network and because of this all Windows systems connected to the network could have been compromised.
The CCS urged users of Windows based systems to stop using their computers and to switch them off so as to reduce traffic on the network and allow the team working on the restoration work to carry out their activities. The CCS also asked users to ignore any ransomware messages demanding bitcoins that may appear on the screen and asked them to report to the CCS Help Desk.
A couple of hours after the initial message, another update was sent out where the University noted that users on campus are able to use their computer to conduct business, they are encouraged to do so and if they can’t then getting in touch with CCS is the next best option. In its last update the University noted: “Students, faculty and staff are advised that Carleton remains open and classes are continuing.”
The University has said that they are still trying to determine the scale of the attack and that they are also trying to find how the attack originated and if possible who are behind this.
For those of you who are not aware, a ransomware is a type of malware / malicious software that locks out the user of the system and keeps them from accessing their files until the user pays a ransom to gain access to the files.
OPP sent out warning last month
Last month as part of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) sent out a warning urging people to stay alert and refrain from accessing emails that are from unknown senders. According to Get Cyber Safe Canadians receive around 156-million phishing emails every day and while most of them are blocked by spam filters, 16-million eventually make it through to users’ inbox. About 50 per cent of these emails are opened and accessed by users and as many as 800,000 phishing or ransomware links are clicked. 10 per cent of these users fall for some sort of online scam through these emails and end up sharing personal information and this means that as many as 30-million people end up being potential victims every year.
Ransomware on the other hand produces what has been called a “Police Trojan” or “scareware” because a notice pops up that appears to come from a law enforcement agency. The message is a false accusation of illegal online activities and then demands that the consumer needs to pay a fee via money transfer or credit card to unlock the computer. When the victim submits their payment details, the criminals then steal and use the victim’s personal information.
“Ransomware and phishing emails seek to elicit personal information and data needed to fuel further criminal activities. Together, we need to do all we can to convince victims to report phishing emails and ransomware incidents, which can reduce harm and victimization”, Deputy Commissioner Rick BARNUM, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime.