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Howard University Ransomware Attack Disrupts Classes, Many Unknowns Remain

Federal officials warned of cyberattacks over the Labor Day weekend.

Edward Gately

September 9, 2021

6 Slides

Hackers chose Labor Day weekend to launch a ransomware attack against Howard University, one of the largest historically Black schools in the United States,

The ransomware attack shut down the campus Wi-Fi and the university canceled classes on Tuesday. In-person classes resumed Wednesday, but online classes remain canceled until at least Thursday.

“We are continuing our full assessment of all university academic, communications and service systems for vulnerabilities,” the university said in its latest update. “Our response committees are currently developing an isolated server environment that will allow protected online and hybrid instruction.”

Faculty, staff and students should expect audits concerning devices and access credentials associated with university work and operations.

“These audits will require sweeping of phones, laptop and other digital work tools, which may be susceptible to data breaching,” the university said. “All university usernames, email addresses and other login credentials will be verified for authenticity, access privileges, and activity. We will continue to keep you updated on expected timelines for the restoration of campus wireless access. We are working on standing up Wi-Fi in the safest environment possible.”

Labor Day Weekend Warning

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Anne Neuberger

Last week, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger warned of potential attacks over the long weekend. She said attackers may focus on SOCs that are understaffed or have fewer personnel on duty because of vacations.

“And indeed, a long weekend can sometimes make attackers feel they have extra time to navigate in a network before they are detected,” she said.

Hackers targeted Kaseya just before the July 4th weekend, and JBS USA, part of the world’s largest meat supplier, over the Memorial Day weekend.

The impact of the Howard University ransomware attack is still unfolding and students are receiving information via daily emails.

Scroll through our gallery above for cybersecurity experts’ comments on this ransomware attack.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Edward Gately or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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