University of Utah Paid Out $450k to Ransomware Gang to Prevent Student Data Leak

Godfrey Benjamin  Aug 23, 2020 19:50  UTC 11:50

2 Min Read

The University of Utah paid a hefty sum of $457,059.24 to a ransomware gang to prevent compromised student data from being leaked online.

The hush payment amounted to $$457,059.24. According to the University of Utah, computing servers in the school department of College of Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) experienced a criminal ransomware attack on July 19, 2020, which rendered its servers temporarily inaccessible.

The university also confirmed that about .02% of the data on its servers were hijacked by the ransomware group. The hackers claimed that the data accessed were within the CSBS and not central. As a preliminary response, law enforcement agents were notified. Together with the university’s Information Security Office (ISO) and an external cybersecurity firm, an investigation was launched and locally managed IT services and systems from backup copies were restored.


With the CSBS servers fully back online, the university claimed its servers still had vulnerabilities and are prone to further attacks. The university announcement read:

“Despite these processes, the university still has vulnerabilities because of its decentralized nature and complex computing needs. This incident helped identify a specific weakness in a college, and that vulnerability has been fixed. The university is working to move all college systems with private and restricted data to central services to provide a more secure and protected environment."


To be on the safe side, the university advised students and staff to use strong passwords as well as two-factor authentication in the meantime.


Universities Becoming Easy Targets for Ransomeware Groups


Ransomware gangs are hitting universities more and more, as they appear to have been easy to prey upon in recent times. Blockchain.News had previously reported that the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), had paid criminal hackers from the Netwalker ransomware gang a sum of $1.14 million to resolve a ransomware attack.


While the ransomware attack on The University of Utah involved a single server from the CSBS, the attack on the University of California, San Francisco affected “a limited number of servers” within the medical school, making data temporarily inaccessible.


The University of Michigan also suffered similar attacks from the Netwalker gang but allegedly refused to pay any ransom. With ransomware gangs mostly demanding payments in Bitcoin (BTC), no arrests have yet been made with respect to these three mentioned attacks.


Image source: Shutterstock

Read More