Howard University Hit by a Ransomware Attack

The Washington school canceled online and hybrid classes for a second day after shutting down its network.

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Howard University, one of the country’s leading historically Black colleges and universities, canceled some classes for a second day after it was hit with a ransomware attack.

All online and hybrid undergraduate classes are suspended for Wednesday, according to a statement by the university. All in-person classes in Washington will resume as scheduled.

The university had suspended classes on Tuesday after shutting down its network to investigate the attack. An alternative Wi-Fi system will be set up but will not be available tomorrow, according to the statement.

The United States has seen a surge in ransomware attacks in recent years as hackers lock down networks and demand payment to let users back in. They have hit not only educational institutions but hospitals, pipelines, private companies, grocery stores and local governments.

James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said hacking attempts on schools and universities were common, given that many did not have the means to install sophisticated security measures. Cybersecurity has become a growing concern for school districts, especially because they hold troves of private data.

“They scan the globe for easy targets and if there’s a vulnerability that they can take advantage of, they don’t care who you are,” Mr. Lewis said. “You could be the Vatican and they would take advantage of you. This is purely money.”

White House officials warned organizations about ransomware attacks ahead of Labor Day, although they said there was no specific information about potential threats.

“In the past, over holiday weekends, attackers have sometimes focused on security operation centers that may be understaffed or a sense that there are fewer key personnel on duty,” Anne Neuberger, a deputy national security adviser, said at a Sept. 2 news briefing.

The network was shut down after Howard’s information technology team detected unusual activity on Friday. Howard said it was working to restore operations but that it would not be an “overnight solution.”

Campus Wi-Fi will be down until the university can determine “the best and safest path to stand it up,” the university said.

Howard is working with F.B.I. and city officials and installing additional safety measures to protect the university’s data. The F.B.I. said in a statement that it was aware of the incident and working with the university but had no further comment. Washington’s city government did not respond to requests for comment.

There has been no evidence that any personal information was retrieved or stolen, but the investigation is still active, according to the statement. More than 11,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students are enrolled in the university, according to its website.

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