Ransomware attacks against educational institutions are on the rise, with Illinois' Knox College becoming the latest victim. But as NBC News reports, this attack is unique as it "marks the first known case in which hackers used their access to contact students directly in order to intimidate them." On. Dec 12, students at the liberal arts school received an email from hackers, who threatened to sell their "personal information, medical records, psychological assessments, and many other sensitive data" if a ransom wasn't paid. "In less than 24 hours, your data will be leaked on our site," read the message purportedly from Hive Ransomware Group, per the Galesburg Register-Mail. "To us, this is a normal business day," it continued, per NBC. "For you, it's a sad day."
Cybersecurity firm Emsisoft has tracked 41 ransomware attacks against US colleges and universities this year, up from 26 in 2021, per NBC. Tech Target reports Hive, an "FBI-identified criminal organization," has also targeted North Carolina's Guilford College and Oklahoma's Norman Public Schools District in recent months. While some schools pay ransoms, others do not. "It's getting harder and harder to convince victims to pay, so this is the kind of extremes they need to go to," Allan Liska, an analyst at cybersecurity company Recorded Future, tells NBC of the Knox College hack. School officials haven't said whether they'll pay a ransom. A rep says the college is working with the FBI. (Read more hackers stories.)