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A group of hackers called NetWalker attacked the networks of three American universities in order to infect the infrastructure with a ransomware virus and extort a ransom in bitcoins.

The attackers penetrated the computer networks of the University of California in San Francisco, Michigan State University in East Lansing and Columbia College in Chicago. The hackers said they were able to obtain sensitive data such as students' names, Social Security numbers and financial information. If the universities do not pay the ransom, the hackers will publish the stolen data.

According to Emsisoft analyst Brett Callow, ransomware attacks on educational institutions are a "prohibitively destructive and expensive problem." According to Emsisoft, at least 89 universities, colleges and schools were attacked by similar viruses in 2019. The trend continues in 2020 – at least 30 educational institutions have been attacked so far.

Callow emphasized that computer professionals working in educational institutions need to maintain network security, keep systems up to date and filter email. He advised disabling the PowerShell scripting language system and using sandboxes to run files. A computer security specialist stated:

“Every time attackers receive a payment, they become even more motivated and gain new resources. The only way to fight is to cut them off from funding, which means organizations must ensure the security of their computer systems so that they do not have to pay a ransom.”