Ransomware epidemic strikes Louisiana

Thomas Celles



The State of Louisiana is under a state of emergency after three public school districts were hit with ransomware attacks.

On July 24, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency after these attacks.

As recently as Aug. 20, dozens of towns in Texas were struck by coordinated ransomware attacks that completely locked down the local governments’ computer servers.

Although ransomware is not a new concept, the recent attacks have brought it into a national spotlight as governments and experts struggle to find ways to combat it.

According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, “Ransomware is a type of malicious software – or malware – that attempts to deny users access to computer systems or data until a ransom has been paid.”

Resolution of a ransomware attack often requires the aid of specialists and some victims decide to pay the ransom instead, yet experts say paying up is no guarantee of regaining access.

Austin Warren, sophomore, said that he hopes NSU is prepared for any attacks on its servers.

“The idea that an attack like the ones in the news could be the fault of any unaware student is a bit nerve-wracking because I don’t want to be the reason the servers go down,” Warren said.

Shawn Parr, senior systems administrator for NSU said Information Technology Systems is aware of the issue and is confident in their ability to defend against any attacks.

“On our campus we have not seen any ransomware on specific machines or in any of our data center systems,” Parr said. “We have seen, however, a huge uptick in the methods that are used to spread malware and ransomware.”

Parr is confident in the ability of NSU’s Information Technology Department to prevent such an infection, and if necessary, combat a breach in security.

“We were implementing new email filters even before the state of emergency occurred,” Parr said. “[They] have been very effective in preventing these types of attacks that are used to spread [malware].”

Parr said that the school districts who were the victims of earlier attacks that led to the state of emergency did not have a security stance on par with NSU’s.

Parr said the easiest way to protect yourself and NSU against malware attacks is just to be vigilant. He recommends never clicking on links or open attachments in suspicious emails and always follow safe practices when browsing the internet.

In Parr’s experience, malware is typically delivered through email scams or phishing.

Students and faculty can obtain free antivirus software for their computers. Visit http://www.nsula.edu/its/services/ for more details. More information on ransomware is available at http://www.us-cert.gov/Ransomware.

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