Red Deer College managed to fend off a malicious cyberattack and being forced to pay a ransom on Friday although its information technology system wasn’t fully returned to normal until Monday afternoon.
Late Friday afternoon the college began posting on social media about a “technology threat” against its computer and Internet services.
It was the first such “ransomware” attack the college has seen, Jim Brinkhurst, RDC Vice President, College Services and Chief Financial Officer, said Monday.
Since there was no actual ransom request and no loss of data, they didn’t anticipate bringing in the RCMP, he said.
“The world is changing each and every day and as much as we move forward with our types of virus protection and all that kind of thing, the ones that are doing the attacks are just stepping that up each and every day as well.
“We play this constant game of trying to make sure that we’re ahead of that. It’s a huge task for us.”
Earlier in June, the University of Calgary paid a $20,000 ransom after it suffered a similar cyber attack on its systems. The malicious attacks, which are becoming more and more common globally, involve computers or computer systems and their data being locked by ransomware and not released until a ransom is paid.
Once the threat was realized at RDC, the college’s IT Services team was able to mitigate the situation before it reached the point of having to engage with any demands for money. Within 15 minutes, the IT department alerted all employees of the threat, and all RDC technology access was shut down to keep the threat from spreading.
Red Deer College’s information system, including its computer network, email and wireless systems were affected.
The IT Services team had to perform in-depth scans of all RDC servers and data files throughout the weekend to ensure the threat had not spread.
All staff who took devices home on the weekend had to have those devices scanned on Monday before turning them on.
The downfalls of the college’s system being down include students not having access for their studies, a productivity loss particularly if it happens Monday to Friday, and the time and effort involved by the staff doing the recovery, Brinkhurst said.
A report by the provincial Auditor General in February stated that Red Deer College needed to improve its general computer environment, something that had been recommended three years earlier.
The report again recommended that RDC finalize its risk assessment process and implement a comprehensive IT control and governance framework for its key processes; manage changes to computer programs; and test and assess its disaster recovery plan.
They have since fully met all those concerns, Brinkhurst said.