NYC Students Rejoice as Hackers Extort College for $2 Million in Bitcoin

Hackers have successfully breached the network of the New York City-based Monroe College, demanding $2 million in Bitcoin to restore the institution’s encrypted data following a carefully-orchestrated ransomware attack.

But while school administrators scramble to address the crisis, students are rejoicing at their unexpected luck.

Hackers demand millions in Bitcoin

The college – which has nearly 8,000 enrolled students – was hit by the ransomware attack on Wednesday morning, affecting the Manhattan, New Rochelle, and St. Lucia campuses, the Daily News reported yesterday.

The hackers crippled the whole network of the institution, including its website which is currently offline. However, Monroe has still access to its official Facebook handle.

Posted by Monroe College on Friday, July 12, 2019

While the college’s emails are compromised, the school is still running classes. Its payroll system also remains untouched by the hackers as a third-party firm handles it, Monroe spokeswoman Jackie Ruegger stated.

In the meantime, Monroe’s IT team is trying to get the school’s system back online, Ruegger added.

“The good news is that the college was founded in 1933, so we know how to teach and educate without these tools. Right now we are finding workarounds for our students taking online classes so they have their assignments. We are rolling up our sleeves and working to figure things out,” the spokeswoman said.

According to the college, hackers have told them that they would restore Monroe’s systems if the school pays 170 BTC. At the current market rate that equals a sum of nearly $2 million.

“We are taking [our cyber security] very seriously, and have engaged our external experts to assist us,” Monroe President Marc Jerome stated.

Ransomware makes some NYC students happy

Multiple Monroe students have expressed their delight at the ransomware attack on social media, noting that it has provided them with unexpected extensions on crucial assignments.

One student even joked about asking the hackers to change all his grades to better ones.

Other students are more concerned about their grades, reaching out to their professors to get extensions, according to the Daily News.

“All the systems are down. It won’t let us log in our print our work,” student Jeffrey Lopez said.

To pay, or not to pay?

The billion-dollar question when a ransomware attack hits an institution is whether to cough up the ransom.

CCN reported in June that Baltimore’s authorities refused to pay an $80,000 ransom to the hackers even though the ransomware attack cost the city $18 million.

On the other hand, Florida’s Riviera Beach City paid 65 BTC (worth $606,000 at the time) to restore access to its critical services.

In response to the dilemma, the United States Conference of Mayors has made a non-binding agreement to not pay ransomware demands from now on.

Local officials say they won’t be paying Bitcoin ransomware demands anymore. | Source: United States Conference of Mayors

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