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Schools becoming common targets of Ransomware attacks

Hartford Public schools had to cancel classes Tuesday due to a ransomware attack. Luckily, no student or staff information was accessed.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — While Hartford Public Schools encounter with ransomware has now been dealt with, it is a growing problem worldwide.

Ransomware is often delivered via an email that appears legitimate, tricking a person to click on a link or download an attachment, which in turn can leave you or your business is a world of trouble.

According to a University of New Haven computer science professor, ransomware is very simply malware, or malicious software, that, when it gets into your computer, encrypts your files and folders with an unknown encryption key.

"So that user, the victim of a ransomware attack, is not able to access their files or folders," said 

Vahid Behzadan, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Computer Science for the University of New Haven.

Ransomware an appropriate name given the victim will typically be asked to pay some sort of money "to get the encryption key so that they can get access to their own files or data," Behzadan said.

He says attribution is often very difficult in ransomware attacks. And, in some cases, in high profile attacks, the perpetrators sometimes offer customer support.

"When you are attacked you can actually email them or call them on a VOIP phone and ask about how you can accomplish the transfer of money, which is typically in crypto cards," he added.

His advice: do not pay any ransom.

"It’s very much like not negotiating with terrorists."

Ransomware has been a major cybersecurity challenge for the last five or six years, Behzadan says. And, if up to date backups are not available, data is lost. The bottom line?

"If an attacker wishes to compromise a system, and has the means to do so, it will happen regardless of how much you spent on your defense."

And don't ever click on links that seem suspicious, even in emails that appear to have come from people you know.

According to a company called Check Point Software, more than 1,000 school systems nationwide were hit with ransomware in 2019. 

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