FALL RIVER — Bristol Community College is the apparent victim of a ransomware attack that’s affected the school’s internet, email and computer network for about a week.
According to a message on the school’s website, a “cybersecurity incident” has affected “on-site internet and network functions including email, Teams, shared document sites and information systems, for students and employees.” A message on the school’s site has indicated students and employees should expect no internet or wifi, and no access to the school’s network, at all college locations.
Bristol has campuses in Fall River, Taunton, New Bedford and Attleboro.
The school’s website indicates this was a ransomware attack that occurred “on or around Dec. 23”; in a ransomware attack, hackers gain access to a computer system and encrypt or lock files, demanding a fee to restore the files, usually in cryptocurrency. According to the school’s website, the incident is yet unresolved.
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“The college is conducting a full systems audit to determine exactly what systems may have been affected and what impact, if any, there is on student and employee information,” reads a statement on the school’s website. “We are developing a timeline for resolution.”
A notice on the school’s site also suggests that students and employees change passwords on their personal and professional accounts, and monitor their credit reports for any suspicious activity.
Bristol’s associate director of media relations Kevin Spirlet said the school will provide regular updates about the incident on its website and on their mobile app for both students and employees.
The college’s winter session, an accelerated set of courses taking place between fall and spring semesters, began Dec. 27 and ends Jan. 13. The school included information for students and employees about how to access the courses given the internet outage.
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Other local cybersecurity attacks
It’s not the first time that network systems at local organizations have proven vulnerable to attacks from hackers, which can sometimes take weeks to resolve.
In 2013, Swansea police paid off scammers who encrypted several files in their computer system and held them for ransom, paying $750, then the value of two Bitcoins.
In 2019, the city of New Bedford suffered a major ransomware attack with criminals demanding $5.3 million in Bitcoin. The city counteroffered $400,000 from insurance proceeds; when this was rejected, the city worked with tech support to successfully recover the data.
Somerset Berkley Regional High School was hit with a ransomware attack in 2020, Newport schools were hit with malware in 2019 and Brockton police suffered a cyberattack in the summer of 2021 that knocked network systems offline.
Updated 5:30 p.m.: Clarified nature of the incident and included response from the school’s media department.
Dan Medeiros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.