By Eric Lieberman
A Los Angeles college paid hackers $28,000 to remove infected software from its computer systems after cybercriminals took the school’s data hostage.
The perpetrators infiltrated the servers of the Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) and issued ransomware–a type of infected software designed to take over a computer system and then block access for the authorized user until a fee is paid.
Thousands of students and faculty were unable to access their files as a result of the ransomware, reports ZDNet.
“You have 7 days to send us the BitCoin after 7 days we will remove your private keys and it’s impossible to recover your files,” said the ransom note, according to The Valley Star, the school’s independent student newspaper.
The Los Angeles Community College District made the payment after consulting “outside cybersecurity experts and law enforcement,” according to an official report of the incident. (RELATED: Hackers Are Gunning For Your Personal Data By Tricking You)
This isn’t the first time an academic institution has succumbed to nefarious virtual pressure. The University of Calgary was forced to pay roughly $15,700 in June to hackers who infiltrated its information technology systems.
But the majority of cybersecurity experts say it is not advisable to pay cybercriminals when they take data captive. Two primary reasons are that there is no guarantee that data will be given back to its rightful owner, and because there is no assurance that the cybercriminal will not blackmail the person again–aside from the hacker’s word. (RELATED: Everything Online Is Connected, Now There’s A Growing Need For Cyber Insurance)
This form of hacking has become so pervasive that an initiative called “No More Ransom” was created. A number of “law enforcement and IT Security companies have joined forces to disrupt cybercriminal businesses with ransomware connections,” according to the project’s official description.
The organization’s website helps victims of ransomware try and regain their encrypted data without having to pay the criminals. The project urges targets to never pay the ransom.